[JURIST] US Magistrate Judge John Facciola Tuesday ordered [PDF text; CREW press release] the White House to report within five business days whether the millions of e-mails from 2003 to 2005 that have been deleted from White House servers in fact exist on back-up tapes. In November, US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy ordered [JURIST report] the White House to preserve all of its e-mail records by saving back-up disks after private advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] in October requested a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] to stop deletion. Facciola's Tuesday ruling in The National Security Archive v. Executive Office of the President, consolidated with a lawsuit from CREW, requires the White House to reveal whether the back-up tapes are catalogued, labeled or otherwise identified to indicate the period of time they cover and the data they contain.
The order came in advance of a ruling on motions from CREW and the National Security Archive [advocacy website] to expedite discovery to determine what relevant email still exists. The US Department of Justice has been unresponsive about what back-up tapes the White House possesses, although it has said that the White House has maintained all back-up tapes since CREW filed suit. The issue of missing e-mails has been an ongoing controversy in the Bush administration, arising first during the CIA leak investigation, and again last year during controversy over the firings of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archives]. AP has more.