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E-shredding the Plame E-vidence
February 1, 2006 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald says emails relevant to the Valerie Plame leak investigation have gone missing from the White House. "In an adundance of caution," Fitzgerald wrote [PDF] to "Scooter" Libby's lawyers on January 23, "we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system." Might this help explain why Alberto Gonzales -- now the Attorney General, and lately so busy mustering arguments to assert that Bush's NSA domestic-spying program is "legal" -- waited 12 hours before instructing White House staff to preserve documents relevant to the leak investigation after telling Andrew Card about it? Shades of the late, great yoga instructor, Rose Mary Woods. [More on Plame here.]
posted by digaman (54 comments total)

 
*"abundance," rather.
posted by digaman at 2:29 PM on February 1, 2006


9/11
posted by Rothko at 2:31 PM on February 1, 2006


This is my shocked and awed face.
posted by Freen at 2:32 PM on February 1, 2006


freedom
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2006


human/animal hybrid.
posted by 40 Watt at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2006


teh terrorists.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2006


they're so corrupt...people knew at the time that they were destroying records--that whole 12 hours thing should never have been allowed.
posted by amberglow at 2:38 PM on February 1, 2006


It's not the crime, but the cover-up, which frequently brings down the big boys.
posted by caddis at 2:40 PM on February 1, 2006


Bush's missing 18 minutes.

I think the current whitehouse strategy is to have so many scandals brewing at once, that we are overcome by cognitive dissonance when trying to form them into a coherent mental image.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:44 PM on February 1, 2006


Twelve hours is a long, long time. That alone should raise red flags and, I'd think, expose Gonzales to a possible obstruction of justice charge.
posted by fenriq at 2:46 PM on February 1, 2006


President Creates Cabinet-Level Position To Coordinate Scandals.
posted by basicchannel at 2:49 PM on February 1, 2006


Fitzgerald is not a man to be trifled with. I think someone beyond Libby is going down hard. Gonzales? That would be too sweet for words--but probably a lesser player.
posted by bardic at 2:51 PM on February 1, 2006


That's funny basicchannel.

Fitzgerald likely has a copy of the missing email or emails.
posted by caddis at 2:52 PM on February 1, 2006


Fitzgerald likely has a copy of the missing email or emails

Could you elaborate?
posted by eddydamascene at 2:57 PM on February 1, 2006


He asserts that not all emails were turned over. How would he know? Someone could have told him something. More likely he obtained a copy of one or more emails from a sender or recipient outside of the whitehouse and is now wondering why he didn't get a copy from the whitehouse.
posted by caddis at 3:00 PM on February 1, 2006


Gee... if only we had pervasive wiretapping we wouldn't have to worry... oh wait!

Ah, okay I get it, some people are beyond reproach and don't need to be watched. Everyone else is fair game though.
posted by C.Batt at 3:01 PM on February 1, 2006


Guys, please, keep it down, willya? We've still got 45 seconds' hate left for Cindy Sheehan.
posted by Spatch at 3:06 PM on February 1, 2006


Getting arrested for wearing a t-shirt at the SOTU -- oops -- nevermind:
"We Screwed Up" -- Police say Sheehan Didn't Break the Law at Bush Speech
"...Capitol Police will ask the U.S. attorney's office to drop the charges [against Sheehan]. 'We screwed up,' a top Capitol Police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said Sheehan didn't violate any rules or laws.

...Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Florida — chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee — was removed from the gallery because she was wearing a T-shirt that read, 'Support the Troops — Defending Our Freedom.'

The Capitol Police official said officers never should have approached Young."
posted by ericb at 3:17 PM on February 1, 2006


likely he obtained a copy of one or more emails from a sender or recipient outside of the whitehouse

Makes sense. But deleting half of the conversation as a coverup would only make sense if a thorough investigation would not likely lead to the other half, which would not be the case. If Fitzgerald has the emails, a coverup doesn't seem plausible to me.
posted by eddydamascene at 3:18 PM on February 1, 2006


And there's also this -- Joint Chiefs Send Rare Protest Letter to 'Wash Post' Over 'Reprehensible' Cartoon

Tom Toles cartoon here.
posted by ericb at 3:18 PM on February 1, 2006


Makes sense. But deleting half of the conversation as a coverup would only make sense if a thorough investigation would not likely lead to the other half, which would not be the case. If Fitzgerald has the emails, a coverup doesn't seem plausible to me.

It makes sense to me: he can do a little visual with the e-mails: "here is what we had, and here is what we received. Can you spot the differences?"
posted by interrobang at 3:24 PM on February 1, 2006


Tom Toles should get a Nobel Prize.
posted by goethean at 3:36 PM on February 1, 2006


Proper link for Toles' cartoon.
posted by ericb at 3:42 PM on February 1, 2006


Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald says emails relevant to the Valerie Plame leak investigation have gone missing from the White House.

yeah...that sounds about right.
posted by mcsweetie at 3:51 PM on February 1, 2006


Bush 10/7/2003:
I mean this town is a -- is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators -- full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is -- partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we'll find out.
Like OJ looking for the real killers.

The choice of the word "protecting" with regards to the leakers who betrayed an undercover CIA officer is odd. An honest man may have said "concealing" or "hiding the identities" or any other phrase which carries a negative connotation, which would be the likely choice of someone who truly wanted to "get all the facts".

To choose the word "protecting" is to give the concealment a positive connotation. You protect a battered wife, a child in danger -- but you don't "protect" a criminal. A criminal is someone who is "harbored" or "abetted", his identity "concealed", "withheld", "hidden".

Anyway, to put it in Bush's own vernacular...this is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world. We know what full disclosure looks like, and this is not it. This is a regime with a history of concealment and deception. And America must not, and will not, allow it.
posted by edverb at 4:00 PM on February 1, 2006


Isn't oil transparent enough for all you hatahs?
posted by fenriq at 4:12 PM on February 1, 2006


edverb, that is a wonderful analysis.
posted by digaman at 4:22 PM on February 1, 2006


I doubt there's anything juicy here. Electronic archiving systems fail all the time, and investigations like this nearly always reveal similar problems. For example, an organization might create daily e-mail server backup tapes that are periodically overwritten, keeping only the monthly tapes. It is quite common when restoring those backups to find that some are corrupted or suffer other problems. It would not be at all unusual for a few months worth of tapes in a given year to be unusable. I speak from personal experience in dealing with companies in these situations. I imagine the government's systems are no better, and probably much worse, than those of a typical large corporation. If there was any indication of deliberate destruction of evidence, wouldn't you expect Fitzgerald to be blasting away on this?

Also, the "he waited 12 hours" story continues to be totally overblown. Gonzalez got the notice from DOJ at 8PM and notified the staff first thing the next morning. Speaking again from personal experience, this is actually a pretty quick response, especially considering most of the 12 hours were overnight. In any event, if Gonzalez or Card (or someone else) was going to destroy relevant documents, he was going to do it regardless of whether or when a staff notice regarding document preservation was circulated. The "12 hours" issue is a red herring.

Look, this whole affair stinks. But not every rock has a bug under it.
posted by brain_drain at 4:27 PM on February 1, 2006


that doesn't mean we should leave some rocks unturned.
posted by carsonb at 4:50 PM on February 1, 2006


"We have the right to be heard! We are Americans!" [WMV]
posted by dsword at 5:00 PM on February 1, 2006


The 12 hours thing isn't necessarily a red herring. Because if files were deleted BEFORE people got an order to turn everything over then it's not quite breaking the law, is it? The thing I don't get is how these emails could really be gone. Even if you delete something, isn't it sometimes possible to retrieve it from the computer?
posted by sacrilicious at 5:02 PM on February 1, 2006


...likely he obtained a copy of one or more emails from a sender or recipient outside of the whitehouse

Or, even sweeter, Fitz got his hands on the mailserver logs. If it is an IMAP based system, there might even be deletion logs.

Because if files were deleted BEFORE people got an order to turn everything over then it's not quite breaking the law, is it?

If Gonzales warned the Whitehouse before offically notifying them that they needed to save those files, not only is that breaking the law, there are a number of laws that he's broken -- and *everyone* who hit the delete key is up on conspriacy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.

Of course, I know the Whitehouse answer.

9/11. Pardon.
posted by eriko at 5:09 PM on February 1, 2006


I dig digaman. Fitzgerald, not so much. Gonzales, totally not.
posted by matteo at 5:25 PM on February 1, 2006


If there was any indication of deliberate destruction of evidence, wouldn't you expect Fitzgerald to be blasting away on this?

Has Fitz ever "blasted away"? That's not his MO.

Even if you delete something, isn't it sometimes possible to retrieve it from the computer?

Sure -- tell the White House that the FBI will be there presently to collect their hard drives to resurrect the data. It may come to that, but I wouldn't be surprised if the staff hasn't gone through several "upgrades" since the war began.
posted by digaman at 5:36 PM on February 1, 2006


brain_drain writes "It would not be at all unusual for a few months worth of tapes in a given year to be unusable. I speak from personal experience in dealing with companies in these situations."

Only if your dangerously incompent. A day or two sure but two months worth at the whitehouse? Occam's razor points to the conspirators having learned something from Poindexter and North's incomplete attempts to rid themselves of PROFS records.
posted by Mitheral at 5:38 PM on February 1, 2006


brain_drain: For example, an organization might create daily e-mail server backup tapes that are periodically overwritten, keeping only the monthly tapes. It is quite common when restoring those backups to find that some are corrupted or suffer other problems. It would not be at all unusual for a few months worth of tapes in a given year to be unusable.

b_d -- your're applying non-mission-critical standards to White House IT. I'm not saying that you're wrong, but I'd hope that the backup and storage strategies followed by the most senior levels of government meet or exceed those impled by the Sarbanes-Oxley act for public companies. (And perhaps there's already matching law for government? I lack Google energy tonight)

Corrupt backups may be an excuse at less critical or less funded IT departments in small or medium business, but the industry has moved far past the Bastard Operator from Hell.
posted by VulcanMike at 5:47 PM on February 1, 2006


Speaking again from personal experience, this is actually a pretty quick response, especially considering most of the 12 hours were overnight. In any event, if Gonzalez or Card (or someone else) was going to destroy relevant documents, he was going to do it regardless of whether or when a staff notice regarding document preservation was circulated. The "12 hours" issue is a red herring.

I gotta agree. I know a few people who worked in the Clinton White House and they always clocked out at 6 pm on the dot. Working overnight? No fucking way. Some bint with a thong might deliver a pizza to the Oval Office and precipitate a constitutional crisis.

Also, I've found that when I want to do something that's considered, in picky technical terms, "obstruction of justice" then it's always better to do it during office hours when I have plenty of opportunities to explain why I'm not doing anything wrong.

brain_drain has so got it nailed.
posted by vetiver at 5:48 PM on February 1, 2006


dsword, that link is dead alas. any mirrors?
posted by digaman at 5:51 PM on February 1, 2006


right, vetiver, they're just a bunch of lazy slackerz with bad technology. That explains everything!
posted by digaman at 5:57 PM on February 1, 2006


Well, either way, you'd rather have the obstruction charge - etc. and be seen as taking the bullet rather than rolling over. On the one hand you know some people will try to protect you, on the other is only justice.

Easy choice if you're already a criminal. It's the prisoner's dilemma.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:05 PM on February 1, 2006


Fascinating. (truthout.org link, but a Dallas Morning News story.)

I'd completely forgotten that the White House went over these records with a fine tooth comb before turning them over to Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald just tipped that he's holding a high trump card.
posted by eriko at 6:32 PM on February 1, 2006


from KOS: How does Fitzgerald know of the existence of emails which have been deleted? Speculation leads us to conclude that either someone told him about the emails, or someone has copies of them. Notice Fitzgerald refers to multiple emails in both the Vice-President's and President's office. Were the emails communications between the two offices? It's also important to note that Fitzgerald states that no evidence "pertinent to the charges against the defendant" have been destroyed. This is a beautiful move by Fitzgerald, because remember, the charges against Libby are obstruction of justice and perjury.

A big fuck you from Fitzgerald, hopefully.
posted by bardic at 6:33 PM on February 1, 2006


Smedleyman, I'll take "Iran-Contra" for 100.

This convicted criminal was appointed as a national security advisor to George W. Bush.

"Who is Elliot Abrams?"

Yes! Not to mention all the non-convicted criminals* involved in that prehistoric '80s-era subversion of American law to fuck around with the Middle East, which was then incidental to fucking around in our own hemisphere. (And, really, what sort of unholy Iranian bastard would turn down a key-shaped cake and a King James Bible?) Of course there's no fucking way that the same people who fucked up that original multi-hemispheric fucking-around would ever be allowed anywhere fucking near US foreign policy.

Unless they were.

And that, children, is why we're so un-cool and shrill and chicken-little-ish about the current administration. We've already seen their work.

*Hey, Rumsfeld! Yeah, I'm lookin at you, Cheney!
posted by vetiver at 7:10 PM on February 1, 2006


It would not be at all unusual for a few months worth of tapes in a given year to be unusable.

Reliable data backup is a solved problem. Claims to the contrary are made out of ignorance or a desire to misinform.

The White House email system isn't run on a single server with a shitty $2,000 DLT changer.
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:42 PM on February 1, 2006


I'm hearing Gomer Pyle proclaiming, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!"
posted by alumshubby at 3:10 AM on February 2, 2006


I know where the missing emails are.

Right beside the WMDs that Dubya couldn't find.
posted by nofundy at 7:15 AM on February 2, 2006


Has Pat Fitzgerald asked Walt Cummings?
posted by enakaja at 10:27 AM on February 2, 2006


Go Pat!! Bulldog 'em.

Somebody needs to take a two-by-four to these crooks. Fitzgerald has both the legal authority and the brass balls to do it, clearly. Now that's a real American.
posted by zoogleplex at 10:44 AM on February 2, 2006


I know where the missing emails are.

Right beside the WMDs that Dubya couldn't find.


And the NSA spying info they refuse to hand over, and the Katrina stuff they refuse to hand over, and the 9/11 stuff they refuse to hand over, and the torture stuff they refuse to hand over...
posted by amberglow at 10:44 AM on February 2, 2006


Bush's statement on emails: From the man who, in 2001, authorized the National Security Agency to begin carrying out warrantless wiretapping of thousands and thousands of phone and email communications:

"You know, I don't email, however. And there's a reason. I don't want you reading my personal stuff. There has got to be a certain sense of privacy. You know, you're entitled to how I make decisions. And you're entitled to ask questions, which I answer. I don't think you're entitled to be able to read my mail between my daughters and me."
posted by amberglow at 10:47 AM on February 2, 2006


And it wasn't just 12 hours--it was several days (Friday to Tuesday morning) between when the Justice Dept. was first notified and when they actually handed stuff over. On Friday, Sept. 26, 2003, the CIA directed the Justice Department to launch a criminal probe into the leak. Three days later, on Monday, Sept. 29, 2003, the WH counsel's office was formally notified about the investigation. And then 12 hours after that, Gonzales told White House staff to preserve materials. In other words, the amount of time Bush aides were given to, perhaps, discard and destroy relevant evidence after the DoJ began its work wasn't just 12 hours; it was several days.
posted by amberglow at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2006


Why Congress won't get through to the NSA.
posted by homunculus at 5:36 PM on February 2, 2006


aw, how cute! it runs in the family: Jeb Bush shredding public records and documents. (he's shredding Abramoff stuff)
posted by amberglow at 7:36 PM on February 2, 2006


White House procedures on email: With White House e-mail, it's click now, repent later (2000)
posted by amberglow at 10:41 PM on February 2, 2006


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