ADMINISTRATION -- JUDGE DEMANDS WHITE HOUSE PROVIDE ANSWERS ON MISSING E-MAILS: A federal magistrate yesterday ordered the White House to disclose whether it is in possession of backup copies of up to 10 million missing e-mails. The existence of the missing e-mails came to light in early 2006 when Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the CIA leak scandal revealed that the Executive Office of the President and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney failed to store all of their e-mail traffic through the normal archiving process "for certain time periods in 2003." The order was issued as the White House, claiming the "president's record-keeping practices... are not subject to review by the courts," tried to scuttle lawsuits brought by two private groups, the National Security Archive and the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who are seeking the missing messages.
The National Security Archives contends that the missing e-mails could concern not just the Plame investigation, but also Hurricane Katrina and the firing of the U.S. Attorneys: "This Order will force the Executive Office of the President to tell the public whether it really erased key records of the nation's history or whether it has made any effort to preserve the information." The White House has five business days to report whether computer backup tapes contain the millions of missing e-mails.