Chicago (IL) – The Washington Post reported (registration required) that even though President George W. Bush has been required to transfer all of the White House’s electronic mail messages and documents to the National Archives, the transfer has been slowed due to technical glitches, lawsuits, and slow computer forensic work.
Outgoing White House officials are required by federal law to provide copies of their records to the Archives. However, archivists are not sure if all of the electronic messages will be transferred, because the administration has only attempted to recover backup tapes from the White House recently, and potentially hundreds of thousands of emails have been reported missing.
The transfer might also be incomplete due to the continuing legal battle between a coalition of historians and nonprofit groups in regards to access to Vice President Cheney’s records. Journalists and historians alike are eagerly anticipating the release of the Bush Presidency records.
The job of the National Archives and Records Administration is to monitor the historical record and be sure it is complete.
White House spokesman Scott M. Stanzel told the Washington Post last week that they “are making significant progress in accounting for the email records stored on our computer network.” But he declined to say how many e-mails remain missing or to predict how long the recovery will take because the issue is the subject of ongoing litigation.
This situation is similar to the one that occurred during Bill Clinton’s administration. The White House email archiving system had many defects, thus leading to congressional subpoenas and the administration having to spend $12 million in an attempt to recover missing emails from backup tapes. The effort was not finished until Clinton had already left office.
The transfer of White House records has begun officially a few weeks ago when the first air shipment of documents was sent to a leased warehouse north of Dallas, where the Bush Library is projected to be.
It is still unknown whether or not all of the archived information will be transferred in time, or how much the attempts to recover and gather all of the data will cost.