[JURIST] Private government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] Tuesday urged US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official website] to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether the White House had violated the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act [texts] in failing to preserve millions of missing White House e-mails [JURIST news archive]. In September 2007 CREW sued the Executive Office of the President and the National Archives and Records Administration over their alleged failure to preserve e-mails [complaint, PDF; press release] throughout the Bush administration. In its Tuesday letter [PDF text; press release] to Mukasey, CREW said:
The importance and historical significance of the missing email combined with the involvement of White House staff, make it imperative that the public have absolute confidence in whoever investigates this matter - the exact circumstance for which the special counsel provision was designed. The need for an impartial special counsel is all the more pronounced, in light of the recent history of improper White House involvement in, and politicization of, the work of the Department of Justice. For example, the administration has made clear that it will never allow the Department of Justice to pursue criminal contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials, including former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, and several US Attorneys were fired for refusing to politicize criminal investigations. Frankly, the Department of Justice does not have the credibility or demonstrated independence required to investigate potentially criminal conduct by White House officials.CREW also said that White House officials may have deliberately lost or tampered with email records to hide illegal conduct.
The US House of Representatives Government Oversight Committee has scheduled a hearing [JURIST report] for mid-February to look into White House compliance with the Presidential Records Act and to investigate the apparent contradiction between comments [press briefings; JURIST report] made in January by White House Deputy Press Secretary Fratto that no electronic messages had been lost between 2003 and 2005 and information congressional staffers heard last September that indicated that no electronic messages had been archived on nearly 500 days in different White House offices. The issue of missing e-mails has been an ongoing controversy in the Bush administration, arising first during the CIA leak investigation and again during the US Attorney firing scandal [JURIST news archives]. AP has more.