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White House email inaccessible for fund-raising investigation
By The Associated Press
Special to CNET News.com
March 20, 2000, 9:10 a.m. PT
WASHINGTON--Thousands of incoming White House email messages on campaign fund raising and other matters could not be searched in response to House of Representatives' subpoenas, and it would be a massive undertaking to reconstruct them, Clinton administration officials say.
Blaming "unintentional" computer failures, White House counsel Beth Nolan wrote a Republican lawmaker Friday, "We do not know if any responsive information is contained in the unrecorded emails."
Get the "Big Picture" Related News Message Boards She told Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, that reconstructing the incoming emails from 1996 to 1999 would involve a costly and time-consuming undertaking: up to $3 million and up to two years.
Burton's panel sought information on campaign fund-raising irregularities; the 1993 siege at the Waco, Texas, Branch Davidian compound; and President Clinton's grant of clemency to 16 imprisoned Puerto Rican separatists.
White House spokesman James Kennedy said administration officials were not making a commitment to the restoration effort but would discuss the matter with Burton.
While researching the computer failures, an additional problem was discovered that could result in missing emails in Vice President Al Gore's office, Nolan said. The scope of that problem is unknown.
"These configuration errors were the sole result of human mistakes and entirely unintentional," Nolan wrote.
The mostly technical letter did not address statements in court papers by a former White House contract employee that she was warned not to reveal the email problem that concealed the messages from the Justice Department and Burton's committee.
The contractor, Betty Lambuth, said a subordinate told her some of the emails dealt with "Vice President Al Gore's involvement in campaign fund-raising controversies" and "the sale of Clinton Commerce Department trade mission seats in exchange for campaign contributions."
The subordinate said the emails also contained information on the White House's improper gathering of FBI background files of former Republican appointees and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Lambuth said in her declaration.
Nolan said there were two separate computer failures that made it impossible for document searches to find the emails. One problem lasted from August 1996 through November 1998 and affected incoming messages to 526 White House users, she said. Incoming mail for another 200 accounts were affected by the second error, lasting from November 1998 to May 1999.
-- Jen Bunker (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 20, 2000