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No Copies of White House Emails Near Iraq Invasion

The intricate legal battle over missing White House emails could be going somewhere. Theresa Payton, the White House’s chief information officer,has admitted that there are no backup tapes of Executive Office of the President emails between March 1, 2003 and May 22, 2003. This timeframe roughly coincides with the invasion of Iraq (which was March 19, 2003) and “Mission Accomplished” victory declaration (May 1, 2003).

A court order in a civil suit- filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive- instructed Payne and the president’s office to release all email backup tapes from March 2003 to October 2003.

In her declaration to the court, Payne said that the earliest back-up tape was May 23, 2003. It has already been established that these emails are not on a White House hard drive, as the White House erased the hard drives when they switched their archiving program in October 2003. In other words, it is likely that there is no archive of White House emails during these two critical months of White House activity. Some experts say this would constitute a violation of the Presidential Records Act, which is why the White House is being sued in the first place.

As to the 438 backup tapes the White House did produce between May 23, 2003 and September 29, 2003, Payne said it would be “extraordinarily burdensome” and “extremely costly” to prove the White House’s claim that these backup tapes actually contain executive office of president correspondence. “They’re hoping that they can avoid giving information as long as possible,” said Meredith Fuchs, of the National Security Archives, a plaintiff in the case, “Time is ticking away for the administration and they know it.”

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