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Federal magistrate orders White House response on e-mail backups

[JURIST] US Magistrate Judge John Facciola Tuesday ordered [PDF text; CREW press release] the White House to explain why it should not be required to create forensic copies of all e-mails passed through computers in the Executive Office of the President [official website] between March 2003 to October 2005. In his order, Facciola referred to a January admission by the White House that it had recycled back-up computer tapes of e-mails [JURIST report] prior to October 2003, meaning that some of the e-mails may be lost, and suggested that an order to create duplicates would prevent similar losses in the future. White House officials have until Friday to respond. AP has more.

In November 2007, US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy ordered [JURIST report] the White House to preserve all of its e-mail records after private advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] and the independent National Security Archive [institute website] requested a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] to stop deletion. The issue of missing e-mails has been an ongoing controversy in the Bush administration, arising first during the CIA leak investigation into the revelation of Valerie Plame's identity, and again during controversy over the firings of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archives]. If e-mails were in fact erased, the White House may have violated the Presidential Records Act [text], which requires the preservation of documents that fall into the categories of federal or presidential records.

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