Sunday, February 1, 2009

Obama’s DOJ quietly sought dismissal of missing emails lawsuit


By Jason Leopold

One day after he was sworn in as President of the United States and in the same week signing executive orders ushering in a new era of government transparency, Barack Obama's Justice Department quietly filed a motion in federal court to dismiss a long-running lawsuit that sought to force the Bush administration to recover as many as 15 million missing White House emails.

In a legal brief filed January 21, the Justice Department admitted that a secretive restoration process implemented during George W. Bush's last months in office was still incomplete, and that a bulk of the emails sent between 2003 and 2005 were deleted from servers in the Executive Office of the President and unrecoverable. The missing emails cover a time-frame that included the lead up to the Iraq war, a lawsuit involving the identities of individuals and corporations who advised Dick Cheney on energy policy and the leak by White House officials of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

But despite it all, the newly minted Obama administration said in court papers that the issue revolving around the missing emails is "moot" because some steps, however incomplete, have been taken by the Bush White House to preserve and restore missing emails, even though the work has been conducted under the cover of secrecy by an unknown outside contractor hired by Bush administration officials.

Now, one month after the Justice Department filed it's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the plaintiffs in the case, watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive, the historical project that operates out of George Washington University, have filed their responses to the Justice Department with a District Court judge. CREW and the National Security Archive sued the Bush administration two years ago alleging the White House violated the Presidential Records Act and Federal Records Act by not properly archiving emails from 2003 to 2005.

CREW said the Obama administration's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit "is yet another gambit in a series of actions designed to avoid transparency and accountability by obscuring the fact the Bush White House did nothing for years about a serious email problem that left a gaping hole in our nation's history."