So, two years ago, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) "sued the Bush White House for both its refusal to restore the millions of missing White House emails and its failure to put in place an effective electronic record keeping system," and now the Obama White House has, following a series of negotiations, released documents which, unfortunately, hardly provide a clear picture, as they "represent only a small percentage of the promised records, and appear to be part of a set of documents already provided to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2007 and 2008," and contain prolific redactions. Even still, the documents appear to support CREW's allegations:
These documents confirm Bush White House officials knew they were failing to properly archive records and made several attempts to develop an email archiving system. Although some officials described the development of such a system as a "number 1 priority," the efforts were either unsuccessful or abandoned for unexplained reasons. The documents make clear some administration officials were aware of the problem as early as February 2004, when the White House was attempting to respond to an unidentified grand jury subpoena from the Justice Department.Meet the new boss...oh, you know.
The documents confirm that in October 2005, the White House discovered millions of emails had disappeared. The documents also show that emails Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald had subpoenaed in connection with the Valerie Plame Wilson leak investigation were missing from Vice President Cheney’s office.
In providing these documents to CREW and the National Security Archive (which brought a separate lawsuit now consolidated with CREW's), the Obama administration marked some of the documents "sensitive," and therefore not subject to public disclosure, and redacted the identities and contact information of virtually all individuals named in the documents.
Many questions remain and the White House has promised to release more documents shortly. For example, there are approximately 38 boxes of documents the administration plans to review for disclosure. These boxes contain records related to the White House's discovery of the missing email problem as well as proposals to address the issue and implement effective electronic recordkeeping. CREW is also awaiting documents regarding the limited effort to restore some of the missing emails that was begun by the Bush White House and is continuing. CREW anticipates these additional documents will fill in more of the blanks and will inform the public whether the White House is finally on the right track with its electronic record keeping practices.Sigh.