Judge Rules Against White House in E-Mail Case

by reader Noni Mousa

Gotta hide it better than that, NYT — “Judge Rules Against White House in E-Mail Case”

New York Times Technology section? Yeah, that’s the place to slip in a seriously important political story.

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Okay, to be a little kinder I must say this story came to me today in E-mail, as part of the Tech section update. It was actually printed in the NYT paper version: “A version of this article appeared in print on November 11, 2008, on page A19 of the New York edition.

Frankly, a lot of people never read past the headlines, so how likely are they to make it to A19? So here I am to help them out. Read on:

Judge Rules Against White House in E-Mail Case

Published: November 10, 2008

A federal judge ruled against the Bush administration in a court battle over the White House’s problem-plagued e-mail system. The judge, Henry H. Kennedy Jr. of the United States District Court, said two private groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and the National Security Archive, may pursue their case as they press the administration to recover millions of possibly missing electronic messages. The administration had argued that the courts did not have the power to order the White House to retrieve any missing messages. A document obtained by The Associated Press in August said the White House was missing as many as 225 days of e-mail dating to 2003 and invited companies to bid on a project to recover them.

I am not sure how the administration could argue that the missing E-mails, as part of the day to day documentation of national business and covered by the rules of document retention, can just disappear.

But here’s another question: suppose John Doe does something presumably under the orders of the White House, and later no proof can be found that he had instructions. If he ends up in court for something related to this task, I wonder what happens then? Can he be given a free ride on the basis of the missing mail? in which case can the White House be held liable for his actions, in the absence of proof they had authorized it? Worse, what nest of undocumented promises and undertakings lie in wait for the next administration?

However — they say the net never forgets. I wonder how many White House emails and documents will surface in the next generation, like imperfectly secured bodies from Long Island Sound?
by reader Noni Mausa