House Oversight Committee schedules hearing on White House e-mail records

House Oversight Committee schedules hearing on White House e-mail records

[JURIST] US House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) [official website] has scheduled a hearing [press release] for mid-February to look into White House compliance with the Presidential Records Act and to investigate the contradiction between comments [press briefing; JURIST report] made Thursday by White House Deputy Press Secretary Fratto that that no electronic messages had been lost between 2003 and 2005 and information congressional staffers heard last September, indicating that no electronic messages had been archived on nearly 500 days in different White House offices. Waxman invited Counsel to the President Fred Fielding, Director of the Office of Administration Alan Swendiman, and Archivist Allen Weinstein [PDF letters] to testify.

Earlier this week, the White House admitted [JURIST report] that it had recycled its back-up computer tapes of e-mails prior to October 2003. In November 2007, 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] 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. AP has more.