Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Emails are forever

I'll leave to others to decide whether Diamonds are Forever was the worst of Sean Connery's takes on the James Bond character, regardless it provides an entree to today's bit of wisdom, can even diamond outlast embarassing emails?

Case in point, in today's White House Watch, the invaluable Dan Froomkin provides an extensive analysis of what could be a potential goldmine (or minefield, depending on your perspective) of information about the doings of the Bush White House.

The slowly-unfolding disclosure that some White House aides use non-government e-mail servers to conduct official business may soon be reaching scandal proportions.

As John D. McKinnon writes in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "The widespread use of private email accounts by some top White House officials is sparking a congressional probe into the practice and whether it violates a post-Nixon law requiring that White House deliberations be documented.

"A top Democratic lawmaker says outside email accounts were used in an attempt to avoid scrutiny; the White House says their purpose was to avoid using government resources for political activities, although they were used to discuss the firing of U.S. attorneys."

A Tale of Two Laws

1)The Presidential Records Act was enacted in 1974 to prevent Richard Nixon from destroying White House Records in an attempt to cover his crooked ass, and requires presidents to preserve records of White House business.

2)The Hatch Act, passed in 1939, prohibits government officials from using government time and equipment for exclusively political ends.

The question is whether the Bush administration was using the prohibitions of the Hatch act as a way to avoid the document preservation requirements of the Presidential Records Act.

The White House is claiming that by using RNC provides hardware and email accounts they were merely trying to obey Hatch.

And, perhaps, in a more open and trustworthy administration we might be tempted at taking at their word.

BushCorp™, however, long ago lost the benefit of the doubt.

And in a White House where politics is policy the distinction seems irrelevent.

But regardless, this seems to be a case where the Bushies have been too clever for their own good.

Their only colorable claim for legitimately withholding information from Congress is that of their theory of executive privilege. But that privilege, even if it does apply here, certainly does not apply to White House correspondence using RNC email servers.

And since some Bush operatives, notably Karl Rove, are reported to have used the RNC systems for as much as 95% of their communications, it seems inevitable that some of those communications fall under the provisions of the Presidential Records Act and should be reviewable by congress.

If/when congress gets around to subpoenaing Rove et al.'s RNC emails the reading should be very interesting indeed.

Froomkin's analysis should be read in full.

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