Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Case of the Missing E-Mails

Nothing new in the announcement that the Bush White House has recently stumbled upon more e-mails documenting its activities during its 8 year tenure.

And, at a time when we're accustomed to hearing figures like $785 billion, and $2 trillion, routinely bandied about, the fact that something like 14 million e-mails have suddenly emerged, according to the Associated Press, is not nearly as startling as it would have been in the pre-stimulus years.

But, the timing couldn't be any better. Now that Mr. Bush is back in Dallas, and our new president is sitting on the fence about whether to pursue an official investigation into executive branch wrongdoing, what better time to leak the finding that 14 million electronic messages were mysteriously "misplaced."

Reportedly, the Bush White House has recently acknowledged, too, its remarkable prowess in being able to resuscitate many thousands of other e-mails, of the estimated 5 million previously disappeared, from computer hard drives. Where was Lazarus when we needed him most?

Here we thought Mr. Bush and his sidekicks, Cheney and Rumsfeld, were busy fighting their war on terror when they were playing with their laptops on Capitol Hill. Think about it---when was the last time you sent 14 million e-mails? Imagine writing "Weapons of Mass Destruction" 14 million times.

What is stunning here is not merely the number of e-mails that went missing only to be rediscovered after Bush left town, but the interest of the Justice Department,under Obama, in stopping a lawsuit that aims to recover the e-mails, and bring their contents to light.

For some time now, the National Security Archive has been after the Bush administration for its violation of the Presidential Records Act which requires presidents to preserve written communications, one of the many laws the previous administration took it upon itself to bend, break, or completely circumvent.

But, as an attorney for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C. suggests "The new administration seems no more eager than the last" to deal with the issue of the obvious efforts, by the previous executive branch, to cover their tracks. Any computer novice will tell you that everything is stored on hard drives, and the fact that Bush and friends got away with contending that millions of e-mails were irretrievable is ludicrous. Assuredly, Richard Nixon would do exactly what George W. Bush is doing, and indeed he did when he erased hours of tapes. The only difference is that Mr. Nixon resigned from the presidency in disgrace; Mr. Bush rode out of Dodge in broad daylight.

President Obama has called for more openness in government. As the head of the National Security Archive suggests, someone ought to tell that to his Justice Department.