The National Archives has noticed what we all did: somehow the emails via which John Yoo coordinated with (I’m guessing) the White House on the Bybee Memo disappeared. They’ve written DOJ to get some answers. Here’s the letter. In response, as Michael Isikoff reports, DOJ is mouthing the same kind of blather that Gary Grindler did at the SJC hearing earlier today.
A Justice spokeswoman said the department was “reviewing the letter” and declined further comment. The department is seeking to determine what department policies and procedures were in place at the time to archive or otherwise preserve employee e-mails, according to a source familiar with the department’s review who asked not to be identified because it is ongoing.
The Federal Records Act states that “no federal records may be destroyed” by agencies without first getting approval from the Archives to dispose of the material. E-mails have long been considered “records” if they involve substantive government business. The Archives, which has responsibility for maintaining a permanent archive of government records, has imposed rules on federal agencies, requiring them to take steps to preserve such material—either by archiving the e-mails on computer tapes or by printing them out and preserving them.
Under those same rules, federal agencies “must report promptly” to the Archives “any unlawful or accidental removal” of federal records.
But Susan Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Archives, says the first time Archive officials became aware of the missing e-mails is when the OPR report was released last Friday night.
“We want some answers,” says Cooper. “Why were they destroyed—and why weren’t we notified?” Cooper emphasized that the Archives has no evidence there was any willful destruction.
At some point, people have to stop giving Bush era officials the benefit of the doubt. Every single major scandal of the Bush Administration–except, technically, the warrantless wiretap scandal, but if I were NARA I’d start asking about those emails–has included disappeared emails. I mean, it’s time to stop pretending this is anything but intentional.