Remember the 14 million missing email messages from the White House under President George W. Bush? Remember the (albeit flawed) court order (issued days before President Barack Obama's inauguration) directing the Bush White House to figure out what happened to them?
A federal appeals court recently ruled that the White House does not have to make public internal documents examining the potential disappearance of the email, because the appeals court found that the White House's Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, under which the suit was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), according to the Washington Post.
Potentially millions of email messages -- including those covering key moments related to the invasion of Iraq and to a federal probe of the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's classified employment with the CIA -- could have been missing. The Justice Department had reported that after a $10 million investigation, it had located 14 million email messages. However, the serendipity of the find, along with the refusal of the department to detail the procedures it had used to locate the email messages, had raised suspicions, leading to the failed lawsuit.
"[W]e are asked to decide whether a unit within
the Executive Office of the President is covered by the
Freedom of Information Act," the court's decision reads. "In this
case, we conclude that the Office of Administration is not
because it performs only operational and administrative tasks
in support of the President and his staff and therefore, under
our precedent, lacks substantial independent authority."
Ironically, the Office of Administration not only had a history of responding to FOIA requests, but the office’s own website included regulations for filing FOIA requests, said CREW about the decision. "[A]fter CREW sued, OA suddenly claimed it was not an agency and was not required to produce any of the requested documents."
Noting that "[e]very president except for George W. Bush has treated OA as an agency subject to the FOIA," the organization called on Obama to treat the agency as subject to the FOIA despite the court's ruling. The White House has not yet responded.