Leahy Says White House Lying About Missing Emails

Color Pat Leahy less than confident in repeated White House claims of misplaced emails. “I’ve got a teenage kid in my neighborhood that can go get ’em for them,” he told reporters.

It’s possible for regular folks to lose an email from time to time owing to server crashes and the like. Given the vast communications resources available to the White House, though, with multiple backup systems almost surely in place, I must side with Leahy on the unlikelihood of it happening. That it seems to happen continually strains credulity.

More likely, Dick Cheney is once again giving Leahy what Charles Krauthammer termed “the deuce.” In the first instance, I defended Cheney. In this case, though, he’s on his own.

via Steve Benen

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. brainy435 says:

    Right, because if government is known for anything it is accountability and competence.

    I thought you were former military.

  2. Anderson says:

    Brainy, the point isn’t competence, it’s plausibility. It beggars imagination that, as Leahy put it, there’s not a a server somewhere along the chain with those e-mails.

    Presumably, eager efforts are underway as you read these words to wipe the relevant hard drives.

  3. lcb says:

    Problem is…recovering email is a very, very time consuming thing. Email servers keep the email in a DB…and if you have to look at each days backup of your email server it can take forever. Restoring a copy of the DB can take hours depending on how big the DB is. Then you have to open each persons mailbox…pull back anything that was deleted (deleted items can be kept for as long as the email admin sets his server for)…do a search for the relevant email…open the next persons mailbox…pull back the deleted items…search…then start the whole thing over for the next day. And I’m sure we are talking hundreds of emails for each person per day that have been deleted. As an email admin I have to remind lawyers again and again how much time (and money) it will cost to recover old email…and we are small potatoes compared to what the WH must have.

  4. legion says:

    I almost hope so. That action would put Big Names into federal prison for numerous felonies and conspiracy charges. Big Names that would likely roll over on Even Bigger Names that ordered them to…

  5. M1EK says:

    I wonder if OtB had been around then, if they would have made it all the way to 1975 before finally admitting that Nixon was a d*ck.

  6. bob in fl says:

    Every time I read anything about missing WH emails, a vision comes to mind of Mary Ellen Woods’ (do I have the name right?) contortions shown on the idiot lantern trying to explain 18 minutes of sound missing on a WH tape back in the bad ole days of Nixon.

    Deja vu all over again.

  7. Wayne says:

    As stated in the press, the white house has official e-mail accounts and unofficial accounts. The later is probably not back up as is required for the first. Then I’m sure some have personal accounts.

    The congress for some reason presumes to have some rights to the official accounts. I would think they don’t on the other accounts. Otherwise they could mine them to determine the other side political strategy or to dig up personal matter.

    I find it hypocritical of them to always demand release of e-mail from the executive branch but scream privacy rights when anyone ask for or leak any of their e-mails even on official business accounts.

  8. James Joyner says:


    If they’re conducting official government business on private email accounts, that’s problematic on its face. And, surely, Congress has the right to subpoena emails from people over whom it has oversight authority.

  9. Wayne says:


    “If they’re conducting official government business on private email accounts, that’s problematic on its face.”

    Why? If it is not classified, a person can use his personal cell phone or email if they choose. Plus, nobody has proof that they did conduct official business on private email accounts that congress has subpoena. Congress is on a fishing expedition.

    Yes congress can ask for information on subjects within their jurisdiction of their legislative area. However they technically can’t although sometime try to cast wide nets in hope of catching something. In other word, they can ask for emails pertaining to the firing of US Attorneys but can’t ask for all emails of the US Attorney General whether private or business.

  10. jpe says:

    Wayne, they’re obligated to maintain records of official business. Remember: we the people own those communications. Those emails are ours; we’re they’re employers. Dunno about you, but if I were conducting sensitive business-related communications through my gmail account so that my employer couldn’t get to them, I’d probably get fired.

    And rightfully so. They own my time while I’m working for them.

  11. Anderson says:

    “If they’re conducting official government business on private email accounts, that’s problematic on its face.”


    Because, according to the White House’s own employee handbook, “Federal law requires the preservation of electronic communications sent or received by White House staff.” Period. Regardless of what account’s used.

    So, if they’re sending/receiving messages on outside servers that don’t preserve the messages, then they’re breaking federal law. At least, so the White House says.

  12. Wayne says:

    Do you have a link to that federal law so we can look at the specifics.

    “are expected to only use government-provided e-mail services for all official communication”

    Two keys parts of that statement “expected” and “official communication”. Once again nobody has shown proof of any official business conducted on these private accounts. Then there is the argument of what exactly constitutes “official business”. Remember political activity is not allowed on official business accounts or in certain buildings.

    Of course there is the within reason clause. If a government official is on a private cell phone, it unreasonable to expect them to hang up and call on government cell phone for the purpose of a simple one sentence business meeting reminder or for a Senator to leave his office to be reminded about a political fundraiser.


    If we own all official business e-mails then lets put all of congress e-mails on the web so we can see how they are doing business.

    Nobody have shown that the accused have conducted classified, sensitive, secret or top secret business on personal accounts especially for the purpose of hiding them. You are convicting them with no proof.

  13. Wayne says:

    I like to know how many people out there who don’t mix personal and business matters to some degree. When I meet business associates at a bar, we often talk a little business.

  14. Andy says:

    When I meet business associates at a bar, we often talk a little business.

    Give me a minute and I’ll see if I can dig up the federal statue that requires you to maintain records of your bar chats.