WASHINGTON — The White House has defied a federal judge’s order to
come up with a shorter timetable to produce missing West Wing e-mail
under subpoena, a witness yesterday revealed in a pretrial hearing about
After the Project X e-mail scandal broke in February, U.S. District
Judge Royce Lamberth said he found the White House’s original proposal
of six months unacceptable.
Yet a contractor hired by the White House to “independently verify”
its efforts to reconstruct the e-mail told Lamberth that he was recently
handed an internal document setting a year-end goal just for copying the
e-mail back-up tapes. Searching and producing all of the evidence won’t
happen until 2001.
The White House “wanted to have the copying done by the end of the
year,” said Gregory A. Ekberg, project manager for Vienna, Va.-based
“No one (in the White House) told you I would never have allowed a
goal of 170 days?” Lamberth demanded to know from Ekberg.
He denied being told. Lamberth then asked who in the White House came
up with the goal. Ekberg couldn’t answer.
In other revelations that may further buttress arguments to turn the
White House e-mail project over to court control, an expert witness for
plaintiff Judicial Watch said his company could start producing evidence
If he were given the 3,400 back-up tapes now, “the flow of paper
would start next week to you,” Ontrack Data International Inc. executive
Stuart Hanley told the judge.
Hanley estimated that, at the White House’s current rate of
production, “it would take three years to finish the project.”
Hanley criticized the White House’s choice for lead contractor on the
job. He said ECS Technology Inc. is a no-name in the data-recovery
He also said one of his associates met with ECS president Tung Q.
Duong after the White House awarded ECS the contract, without
ECS is a small minority vendor.
“He could barely speak English,” Hanley said.
ECS has suffered a series of technological setbacks over the last five months, delaying the project. It still doesn’t have all its equipment in place.
“If a company moves on from solution A to solution B to solution C, this would indicate they’re not experienced in this area,” Hanley said.
Ontrack, one of the nation’s top computer-forensics firms, offered to help the White House recover the missing e-mail earlier this year, Hanley revealed.
In a February 29 meeting in the White House, Hanley said he could turn the project (then based on only 800 back-up tapes) in short order at a cost of $450,000.
The White House passed.
Hanley says Ontrack, which has worked FBI computer-evidence cases, could retrieve data from all back-up tapes with missing e-mail — including from Vice President Al Gore’s office — for $5 million to $7 million. That’s under the White House’s budget of $8 million to $10 million.
He says 150-employee Ontrack could hit the ground running, too. It already has the hardware platform, the proprietary data-retrieval software and the staff available in the area to start recovering the estimated 70 terabytes of data.
He also told the judge he could copy tapes at a rate of one every four to five hours — or 10 times as fast as ECS.
“We would be 50 percent to 70 percent complete (with the project) right now,” said Hanley, who has a degree in computer science.
In other testimony, Ekberg revealed under cross-examination by Judicial Watch lawyer Larry Klayman that White House lawyers helped him prepare his June 2 statement to the court certifying that the project was sound.
Klayman questioned how he could call himself an “independent” verifier if he’s collaborating with lawyers defending the White House.
Vistronix, with six workers stationed in the White House, will be paid $1.3 million for monitoring the project.
Defense witness Terry Misich, the project manager for the White House, was supposed to continue testifying Friday under cross-examination by Klayman, but he excused himself, saying he had to go to the doctor.
Toward the end of Thursday’s hearing, Klayman had gotten Misich to admit that ECS did not have much experience reconstructing e-mail tapes.
He also got him to acknowledge that ECS’ subcontractor,
International Inc., employs two former White House officials who figure
prominently in Project X.
As WorldNetDaily first reported in April, the White House matched ECS’ Duong with SRA in a White House meeting, a move that runs afoul of federal contracting rules. It’s not clear if Misich was also in the meeting.
Lamberth has asked Misich to take the stand again Monday, as the evidentiary hearing continues at the U.S. District Court House, Room 21, in Washington.
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