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Officials in the White House of George W. Bush ignored multiple warnings that the administration risked losing millions of e-mails required by law to be preserved, according to a watchdog report released Monday.
The report by the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and Washington concluded that Bush's top aides were aware of a technical glitch that threatened the White House e-mail archiving system "but repeatedly refused to take corrective action."
A number of the e-mails improperly deleted from White House servers were related to the Iraq war and the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's covert CIA identity.
According the to the report:
After spending millions of dollars and years of effort creating an effective electronic record keeping system called the Electronic Communications Records Management System (ECRMS), the Bush White House abandoned ECRMS on the eve of its deployment offering explanations that NARA (National Archives and Records Administration), among others, did not find reasonable.
CREW sued NARA and the the Executive Office of the President in 2007 over their "knowing failure to recover, restore, and preserve" the e-mails. The suit was settled last December, and Monday's report is a summary of the entire investigation.
The settlement brought about the restoration of 94 days' worth of electronic communications from the Bush era, but millions more remain lost.
"A democratic system of government requires transparency. But the Bush administration prided itself on keeping secrets from the American people, ignoring federal records laws requiring White House e-mails be preserved for future generations," Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, said in a statement. "E-mails that might shed light on our nation's recent history -- including records created in the lead up to the U.S. war in Iraq -- have been wiped away."
Read the full CREW report here.
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