December 21, 2009

Bush White House Failed to Search for Libby’s “Missing” Emails

Remember the “Scooter” Libby case back when Bush was still President? The one where the White House essentially used its office to defame a very vocal voice against the war in Iraq and then outed his wife (Valerie Plame) as a undercover CIA officer? Yeah – when that federal investigation was ongoing, numerous emails were subpeonaed from the White House in order to determine if anyone in the White House was using their office or status to break the law by defaming a public official and outing a CIA officer.

At the time, we were told that all of the messages that the investigation was looking for were “missing,” and otherwise unaccounted for. A couple of years go by, and what we learn is that the emails weren’t missing at all – the Bush Administration simply never went looking for them:

Between late 2005 and January 2006, the Bush administration tried to recover “lost” emails from staffers who worked in the Office of the Vice President (OVP), an effort centered on a critical week – October 1 through October 6, 2003. That same week the Justice Department announced it was investigating the unauthorized leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA status.

But one name was missing from the list of 70 individuals whose email accounts White House technicians searched in an attempt to recover and restore missing emails: I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

According to documents obtained by government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), it appears that technicians in the Office of Administration did not attempt to recover from Libby’s account emails he either sent or received during the week of October 1 to October 6, 2003. That was a week when emails from the Office of the Vice President were missing for entire days in some instances and were unusually low in others.

It was also during this time that Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, enjoined all White House staff members to turn over emails or other documents pertaining to Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had angered the White House by criticizing Bush’s case for invading Iraq. The directive came 12 hours after senior Bush White House officials had been told of the pending Justice Department investigation.

Now I’m more than a little familiar with enterprise IT, and the fact that one person’s e-mails were conveniently “missing” is just as suspicious as it sounds. Any off the shelf archiving product that can be run on any mail server would have caught these messages and backed them up either to archive, tape, or some other disk just like everyone else’s mail. But that’s the point – there’s a far more malicious reason why Libby’s mail went “missing,” they just never looked for it:

The search of individual email accounts was conducted after an internal investigation by officials in the Office of Administration concluded that emails from the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney between September 30, 2003 and October 6, 2003 were lost and unrecoverable.

The absence of Libby’s name on the list of individuals whose emails technicians were trying to recover from the Office of the Vice President raises questions as to whether the Bush administration fully cooperated with the criminal investigation into the leak probe, lead by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who had subpoenaed White House emails in January 2004.

In an interview, Anne Weismann, chief counsel of CREW, said she believes the documents show that “for unexplained reasons Scooter Libby’s mailbox was not searched while the mailboxes of 70 OVP employees were searched.”

“It is simply incomprehensible that Scooter Libby’s mailbox was not searched, yet that is what the documents suggest,” she said.

The rest of the story goes into some more technical detail around how it could possibly be that this one user’s mailbox wasn’t archived (as in, it’s not really possible) and how suspicious this must have been to the investigators but they could possibly have been running up against delays and lack of cooperation from the White House’s staff at the time. It’s a worthwhile read, especially if you have any interest or background in IT.

[ Documents Suggest Bush White House Failed to Search for Libby’s “Missing” Emails Subpoenaed in CIA Leak Probe ]
Source: TruthOut

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