Software

White House recycles backup tapes and loses millions of e-mails

According to a recent news story, the White House recycled backup computer tapes of e-mail before October 2003, and so some e-mail threads may no longer exist.

In some of the biggest news yet for 2008, the White House has decided to go green. That's right, folks, the White House is recycling its backup computer tapes of e-mail before October 2003, which means some e-mail threads have been completely overwritten.

An excerpt from TechNewsWorld | AP:

The White House has acknowledged recycling its backup computer tapes of e-mail before October 2003, raising the possibility that many electronic messages — including those pertaining to the CIA leak case — have been taped over and are gone forever.

The disclosure came minutes before midnight Tuesday under a court-ordered deadline that forced the White House to reveal information it has previously refused to provide.

Theresa Payton, chief information officer for the White House Office of Administration, says that her staff is continuing an effort to retrieve preserved copies of these e-mails in the system archives.

Payton's sworn statement was filed in response to a federal court order last week in lawsuits by two private groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive.

The lawsuits allege that millions of e-mails are missing from White House servers. The recycling of backup tapes leaves doubt whether any missing e-mails will be recoverable.

Let's get real here. Everyone makes mistakes. That's part of being human, right? Of course, some people don't think this mishap was an accident at all.

"It appears that the White House has now destroyed the evidence of its misconduct," said Anne Weismann, the chief counsel for the ethics group.

According to the article, "If the e-mails were not saved, the White House might have violated two laws requiring preservation of documents that fall into the categories of federal records or presidential records."

Do you think these missing e-mails were intentionally copied over? If the White House is found guilty, who do you think will (or should) take the rap?

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Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the several blogs.

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