White House ordered to search media devices

In an emergency court order issued Wednesday, a federal judge is directing the Bush executive office to inspect its gadgets for millions of missing official e-mails.

Stephanie Condon Staff writer, CBSNews.com
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.
Stephanie Condon
2 min read

With less than a week left before the Obama administration moves in, the Bush White House was ordered Wednesday to turn over any devices that may contain e-mails from March 2003 to October 2005, a period from which millions of the executive office's e-mails appear to be missing.

In an emergency court order, Judge Henry Kennedy of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia directed the Executive Office of the President to search staff workstations and personal storage table files, and to preserve any e-mails from the period in question.

The court order also directed the office's employees to surrender any media devices in their possession, such as CDs, DVDs, memory sticks, or external hard drives, that may contain e-mails from that period, so they can be searched.

The emergency court order came at the behest of the National Security Archive, a George Washington University research institute that filed a lawsuit in September 2007 to compel the White House to retrieve and preserve its e-mails. A similar suit filed by the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington was consolidated with the Archive's suit.

"There is nothing like a deadline to clarify the issues," National Security Archive Director Tom Blanton said in a statement. "In six days, the Bush Executive Office of the President will be gone, and without this order, their records may disappear with them."

At a separate hearing Wednesday, the Justice Department told a federal judge that the White House has already located at least 14 million missing e-mails, The Washington Post reported.