time to stop pretending…

Posted on Friday 26 February 2010

Inquiry into missing e-mails written by Bush lawyers is demanded
Washington Post

By Carrie Johnson
February 26, 2010

Senior Democrats and watchdog groups demanded Friday that the Justice Department investigate the disappearance of e-mail messages by Bush lawyers who drafted memos blessing harsh interrogation tactics, saying their absence cast doubt on an ethics report that cleared the lawyers of professional misconduct. The lost e-mails cover a critical period in 2002 when Justice Department attorneys labored under heavy pressure on a memo that gave the CIA a green light to use simulated drowning, sleep deprivation and other since-repudiated interrogation techniques against al-Qaeda suspects.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, at a hearing Friday, pressed authorities for answers. "Why were these critical records deleted? Why were they kept from investigators?" he asked. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government accountability group, called on the Justice Department this week to launch a criminal inquiry into the disappearance of the e-mail messages, which could violate the Federal Records Act. The National Archives, which stores government documents, also reached out to the department to ask why it had not been notified about the missing messages before the release of the ethics report late last week.

Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler told lawmakers at the Senate hearing that the ethics report "does not suggest there is anything nefarious" about the missing documents. Under pointed questions from Leahy, Grindler said he had directed a department administrator "to determine exactly what was going on with respect to the archiving of these e-mails." "If they are retrievable, I will direct him to retrieve them," Grindler said…

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.
Since the OPR Report came out, I’ve been aghast that, once again, the email records are missing. I hadn’t realized that "Every single major scandal of the Bush Administration has included disappeared emails," but I knew it was a lot. This would be emails that would likely show that the supposedly independent Lawyers at the OLC/DoJ were in communication with the White House [Gonzales/Addington/Miers]. That would be an important finding, showing that the Memos were anything but just "poor judgment" or "in a hurry," as suggested by Margolis in the OPR Report Review. They were, instead, criminal collusion:

Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bybee were not acting as fair-minded analysts of the law but as facilitators of a scheme to evade it. The White House decision to brutalize detainees already had been made. Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bybee provided legal cover.

as the New York Times editorial suggests [it’s not time for it to be over yet…]. And the missing emails appear to be another a consciously orchestrated cover-up. Says emptywheel:

I mean, it’s time to stop pretending this is anything but intentional.
Go emptywheel. Go Senator Leahy. Go C.R.E.W. Go National Archives

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