WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration is aggressively pushing back against a federal court order instructing the most important offices in the White House to preserve all of their e-mail.
In court papers late Friday, the administration argued that a federal court has no authority to impose such a requirement on the offices of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the National Security Council.
The issue underscores the administration's narrow view of the court's authority in lawsuits over the White House's problem-plagued e-mail system.
The administration argued that none of the court's orders can apply to parts of the White House subject to the Presidential Records Act.
The issue arose Wednesday after U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy directed the White House to issue a notice to all employees to surrender any e-mails from March 2003 to October 2005.
Justice Department lawyers argued that the order applied only to White House offices subject to the Federal Records Act, prompting a quick response from U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola, who is working with Kennedy on the case. Facciola said that all White House offices must be searched for e-mail.
Besides the offices of Bush, Cheney and the NSC, the Presidential Records Act applies to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the Council of Economic Advisors.
The Federal Records Act applies to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
In the lawsuits over possibly missing e-mails that may number in the millions, two private groups are seeking to force the White House to engage in a recovery effort and to establish an electronic archive for e-mail.
The White House said this week that it had located 14 million e-mails thought to have been missing. But the White House has provided no details to support this assertion.
The two private groups suing the Executive Office of the President are the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Is anyone surprised?