January 9, 2008 – A federal magistrate has ordered the White House to reveal whether copies of missing e-mail messages written from 2003 to 2005 during an investigation into the disclosure of the name of a C.I.A. operative are stored in computer backup files.
The order was issued Tuesday as the White House tried to win dismissal of lawsuits by two private groups that are seeking the missing messages.
Two federal laws require the White House to preserve all records, including e-mail; but, in asking that the two lawsuits be dismissed, the White House asserts that the president’s record-keeping practices under the Presidential Records Act are not subject to review by the courts.
The administration also asserts that the Federal Records Act does not allow such far-reaching action as demanded in the suits by the two private groups, the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The federal magistrate, John Facciola, gave the White House five business days to say whether computer backup files contained the missing e-mail.
A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, declined to comment on the judge’s order.
The White House had previously said some e-mail might not have been archived.