WASHINGTON — Searching for Vice President Al Gore’s subpoenaed e-mail
has turned into a comedy of errors — convenient computer errors, that
In March, the White House informed Congress that none of Gore’s
e-mail had been captured by a computerized archiving system, as required
by law. It blamed a “technical error.”
But the White House assured investigators that the problem was being
fixed, and that unarchived Gore e-mail could still be found on some 550
emergency back-up tapes.
A week later, the White House said it hadn’t fully corrected the
problem. In-coming e-mails to Gore’s office still weren’t being
But not to worry, it said. All of his e-mails are secure — stored on
not 550 back-up tapes, but 625.
Now that story is no longer operative, thanks to yet another
“technical error” that wiped out a year’s worth of Gore’s e-mail on
back-up. And once again, the White House is blaming an “outside
contractor” for the foul-up.
Pressed by a House panel to release a sensitive internal memo,
written in February or March 1999, to Gore about the e-mail problems,
the White House said Wednesday it can’t find it.
What’s more, the White House claims that all Gore’s e-mails from the
end of March 1998 through early April 1999 are completely lost.
“A technical configuration error apparently prevented e-mail on the
OVP (Office of the Vice President) server from being backed up,” said
senior associate White House counsel Steven Reich in a June 7 letter to
Jim Wilson, chief counsel for the House Government
Reich blamed “technical personnel” working for an unnamed contractor,
who “neglected” to add Gore’s hard drive to the server backup schedule.
The White House also blames an outside contractor for a West Wing server
“glitch” that caused top Clinton officials’
e-mail to bypass the archiving system from 1996 to 1998.
Former White House computer chief Dotti Cleal told committee lawyers
last month that she personally briefed Gore on the e-mail problems in
the 1999 memo.
In other words, Gore may have known about the archiving hole more
than a year ago, yet failed to inform Congress, a federal court, the
Justice Department’s campaign-finance task force or the independent
counsel — all of whom have outstanding subpoenas for e-mail
encompassing his office.
The White House has maintained (in fact, its chief counsel has sworn
under oath) that no high-level officials knew the full “scope” of the
e-mail problem — known internally as “Project X” — until news of it
broke in February.
But the 1999 memo to Gore, of which Cleal apparently didn’t save a
copy, can’t be located by White House lawyers.
“We have not located any memoranda to the vice president regarding
the non-records management of e-mail,” Reich told the committee.
Asked if committee investigators will subpoena Cleal’s computer
hard-drive cartridge to recover the memo, a committee spokesman says
they’re weighing the option.
“We have no present plan to subpoena her hard drive. However, as the
investigation continues, we will consider our options,” said spokesman
Mark Corallo in an interview.
Cleal left her job in January to work for SRA International Inc., one
of the contractors the White House recently hired to search back-up
tapes for unarchived e-mail under subpoena. Another top Clinton
appointee involved with Project X also recently took a job with SRA, as
News of more noncompliance with subpoenas only heightens suspicions among investigators that the White House is hiding something.
“It raises the doubt even further about the president’s and vice president’s integrity and competence,” Corallo said. “They’re failing on both counts.”
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