Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dan Froomkin - E-Mail Saga Gets Fishier

The saga of the missing White House e-mails took a turn from the deeply suspicious to the deeply, darkly suspicious yesterday as Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman disclosed the bizarre response by the Republican National Committee to early indications that consequential White House e-mails -- particularly to and from Karl Rove -- were being deleted.

From 2001 to 2004, the RNC's highly unusual "document retention" policy was to intentionally destroy all e-mails that were more than 30 days old. In the summer of 2004, due to "unspecified legal inquiries," the RNC changed its policy by allowing -- but not mandating -- the indefinite retention of e-mails sent and received by White House staffers on their RNC accounts. That was just around the time special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation of White House involvement in the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity was kicking into high gear.

Then, in 2005, when RNC officials discovered that all of Rove's RNC e-mails were still getting deleted, presumably by Rove himself, they blocked his ability -- and his ability alone -- to do that. Other White House staffers could still delete at will, just not Rove.

All this stands in dramatic contrast to explicit White House rules mandating that all official White House electronic communications take place exclusively through official White House e-mail accounts, which are supposed to automatically archive everything forever.

Rove, the Bush administration's ultimate political fixer, reportedly used his RNC e-mail for the vast majority of his electronic communication in violation of those rules.
A collection of quotes: "I now have an RNC blackberry which you can use to e-mail me at any time. No security issues like my WH email." --Susan Ralston, assistant to Karl Rove.

"It is better not to put this stuff in writing in their e-mail system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc." --Jack Abramoff associate.

"Dammit. It was sent to Susan on her rnc pager and was not supposed to go into the WH system." --Jack Abramoff

Another communication from Susan Ralston to Jack Abramoff also states: "I know [now] have an RNC laptop at the office for political use. I can access my AOL email when necessary so if you need to send me something that I need to read, you can send to my AOL email and then call or page me to check it.” Can AOL be asked by Congress or a special investigator to turn over emails and explain their retention policies? Should the new supercomputers and terrabyte storage at the NSA monitoring email traffic be searched? Will the NSA snooping claim Rove as a victim?

Firedoglake has more including the White House Counsel's response to requests for more information: Cheney You.

Not email purge related but attorney purge related:

Wisconsin Attorney targeted for firing until he prosecuted a Democrat at election time.

Sen. Domenici asked Bush to fire New Mexico attorney.

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