Jun 18, 2007

Presidential Records Act and e-Mail retention

 Some very interesting results so far in the congressional investigation.

The Presidential Records Act requires the President to “take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented … and maintained as Presidential records.” To implement this legal requirement, the White House Counsel issued clear written policies in February 2001 instructing White House staff to use only the official White House e-mail system for official communications and to retain any official e-mails they received on a nongovernmental account.

I see parallels with organizations and the new FRCP regulations over electronic information, which includes e-mail. Without making judgements, the current situation does not look good for the "we deleted that e-mail" argument. Certainly judges have also been unconvinced as evidenced by the $2.75M US sanction in the US v Phillip Morris case or the $29M US jury award in Zubalake v UBS Warberg LLC. Both were the result of the defendant not retaining or producing e-mail records per court orders. Read the committee's findings about not putting measures into place to preserve records. My gut reaction is that if you have any skepticism in reaction to this, what do you think a judge will think if you try to use the same argument?

The Use of RNC E-Mail Accounts by White House Officials :: Committee on Oversight and Government Reform :: United States House of Representatives

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