The Dog Ate My Homework

Ken AshfordAttorney FiringsLeave a Comment

As an attorney who deals with subpoenas and requests for electronic documents on a regular basis, I can tell you that if a private company — especially one that is required by law or court order to retain documents, emails, and other information — told the government that it had "mishandled" its email retention system such that business-related emails were now "lost", that company would be in a world of shit.  It would be fined; judges would go apeshit; the proverbial "book" would be thrown at them.  Juries would be instructed by the judge that inferences can be made about the non-preservation of the emails — i.e., they can (if they want) infer that the emails were intentionally destroyed because they reflected wrongdoing.

So what, then, shall we make of this?

Political advisers to President Bush may have improperly used their Republican National Committee e-mail accounts to conduct official government business, and some communications that are required to be preserved under federal law may be lost as a result, White House officials said Wednesday.

Of the 1,000 White House officials with political duties, 22 — including Karl Rove, the chief political strategist — have Republican National Committee accounts that are supposed to be used only for campaign-related work. But recent revelations that some officials have used those accounts for Bush administration business, including discussions of a plan to dismiss United States attorneys, has prompted a Congressional investigation.

On Wednesday, Scott Stanzel, deputy White House press secretary, said the administration had recently begun its own inquiry, and had concluded that its policy governing political e-mail accounts was unclear, that the White House was not aggressive enough in monitoring political e-mail and that some people who had the accounts did not follow the policy closely enough.

As a result, Mr. Stanzel said, “some official e-mails have potentially been lost.” He said Mr. Bush had told the White House counsel’s office “to do everything practical to retrieve potentially lost messages.”

There is, and should be, a strong presumption of wrongdoing here.

UPDATE:  The email scandal is being compared to the 18-minute gap.

And a Kos diarist thinks he has a good name for this scandal: dogAte.