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Obama administration backs Bush, tries to kill 'lost' White House emails lawsuit
Published: Sunday February 22, 2009

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Missing email includes day Cheney's office told to preserve emails in CIA leak case

WASHINGTON -- Welcome to change.

The Obama administration, siding with former President George W. Bush, is trying to kill a lawsuit that seeks to recover what could be millions of missing White House e-mails in a stunning reversal of Obama's rhetoric about Bush secrecy on the campaign trail.

Two advocacy groups suing the Executive Office of the President, including one of the groups that helped derail former House Speaker Tom DeLay, say that large amounts of White House e-mail documenting Bush's eight years in office may still be missing, and that the government must undertake an extensive recovery effort. They expressed disappointment that Obama's Justice Department is continuing the Bush administration's bid to get the lawsuits dismissed.

During its first term, the Bush White House failed to install electronic record-keeping for e-mail when it switched to a new system, allegedly resulting in millions of messages that could not be found.

The Bush White House "discovered the problem" in 2005 and rejected a proposed solution.

The exact number of missing e-mails is unknown, but several days on which e-mails were not archived covered key dates in a Justice Department inquiry into the roles of Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides in leaking the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

Ironically, Cheney's office is missing emails from the very day President Bush told reporters he'd "take care of" whatever staff member had actually leaked the CIA agent's name.

"If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," Bush said Sept. 30, 2003. "And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."

No e-mails were archived on the very day the probe was announced and White House officials were ordered to maintain anything that could become evidence in the investigation that ended the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

Emails are missing from at least some of 473 days of Bush's presidency.

With Associated Press and earlier reporting by Nick Juliano.

Originally published on Sunday February 22, 2009.