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Judge OKs lawsuits seeking Dubya's lost email

225 days of missing messages

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A federal judge upheld lawsuits pressing the Bush administration to recover millions of potentially missing emails just two-and-a-half months before it leaves office.

US District Judge Henry Kennedy rejected the government's request to throw out lawsuits filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive. They seek a court order directing the archivist of the United States to restore deleted email.

Kennedy said the Federal Records Act, which was upheld in a previous case before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, provides for precisely the relief being sought by the two private groups. The Bush administration had argued that courts lacked the authority to direct the White House to retrieve the missing messages.

At issue in the case is some 65,000 backup tapes holding as many as 225 days worth of email dating to 2003. A White House document obtained by the Associated Press said the emails may be missing. In February, a former White House computer expert told Congress the White House had no complete inventory of email and that there was no automatic means to archive and preserve electronic messages. The official also said that until mid-2005, the email system had serious security flaws.

Under Kennedy's ruling, the White House will be required to preserve the backup tapes. Once President-elect Barack Obama takes office, his administration can "do the right thing here and clean up this mess by ensuring that any missing emails are restored from computer backup tapes," Meredith Fuchs, the National Security Archive's general counsel, told the AP.

The AP's story is here. ®

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