White House E-Mails Missing From Initial Months of Iraq War

In court documents filed this week, the Bush administration admitted that that it has no computer back-up tapes with data written before May 23, 2003, and that it cannot track the history of missing e-mails created between March and May 2003. This three-month gap includes the historically critical period beginning when the United States invaded Iraq on March 23, 2003 and the May 1, 2003, announcement by President Bush that major combat operations had ended in Iraq.

A sworn declaration from White House chief information officer Theresa Payton was filed as part consolidated litigation brought by the National Security Archive and the Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) seeking the identification, recovery and preservation of millions of missing White House e-mails.

In its most recent statements to the court, the White House continued to claim that “emails sent or received in the 2003-2005 time period should be contained on existing back-up tapes.” However, Ms. Payton admitted in her court declaration that of 438 Executive Office of the President back-up tapes created between March 1 and September 30, 2003, “the earliest date on which data was written on any of the 438 tapes is May 23, 2003.”

“What is most shocking is that if anyone at the White House was deleting their e-mails during the invasion of Iraq, those e-mails are not on any back-up tapes,” said National Security Archive director Tom Blanton. The National Security Archive is a member of the National Coalition for History.