Jelly, jelly so fine

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tony Fratto will spend eternity in a subterranean chamber without climate control.

The Bush Administration's disregard and flaunting of the Presidential Records Act is probably a lesser sin than many it has committed but is symptomatic of its flouting of the laws of this country. The question that must be asked is how much of its behavior can be traced to contempt and manipulation and how much can we attribute to general ineptitude.

Shortly after Mr. Bush took office, he ordered scrapped a custom archiving system that President Clinton had installed because of a Federal Court Order. Now by White House estimate, as many as 5 million e-mails might be missing. According to White House Special Counsel Emmet Flood in a 2005 study, there are 473 days without any e-mails recorded, including critical days during the time when the Valerie Plame scandal broke.

Now Tony Fratto, White House spokesman says, "that there is no reason to believe that any e-mails were lost." He and the administration know that this is an outright lie. It is amazing that he can speak with a straight face. Both the National Security Archive and the Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington have filed suit against the administration seeking these government records that are public property according to the Freedom Of Information Act.

This week a judge said that she would not compel the government to turn over e-mails that were "rightly or wrongly" sent on Republican National Committee Blackberries. It is illegal to use partisan political groups' equipment and servers for conducting governmental affairs but this was evidently done. According to Theresa Payton, Chief Information Officer for the White House, two thirds of the White House Workstations have been replaced and the back up tapes recorded over so there is no need to do any forensic investigation in looking for the lost e-mails or information.

This Administration is once again resorting to the bold faced lie in what is likely the most secretive presidency to date. From Dick Cheney's clandestine meetings with energy executives to the withholding of visitor logs by the Secret Service, they have cast a great veil over what was supposed to be public information. Their snide and callous disregard for law should not be unrecognized.

Robert Sommers

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