Official: White House staff 'circumvented' e-mail system

The use of outside email by at least 88 White House staff members in the George Bush Administration was done in a manner that "circumvented" the requirements of US government laws.

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The use of outside email by at least 88 White House staff members in the George Bush Administration was done in a manner that "circumvented" the requirements of US government laws.

That's one of the conclusions of a three-month-long US House of Representatives inquiry into the White House use of outside e-mail systems dating back to 2001.

Those accused of sidestewpping laws requiring the preservation of presidential records used Republican National Committee (RNC) and Bush-Cheney '04 re-election committee e-mail accounts

In a 16-page interim report released yesterday by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, investigators said there appears to have been widespread use of such e-mail accounts without proper preservation of the contents of all messages that were sent back and forth.

According to the report, the investigation found that at least 88 White House officials used RNC e-mail accounts, which is higher than earlier White House estimates that no more than about 50 staff members had such accounts.

The officials with RNC e-mail accounts include Bush senior adviser Karl Rove; Andrew Card, the former White House chief of staff; and Ken Mehlman, the former White House director of political affairs. Other users include officials in the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Communications, and the Office of the Vice President, according to the report.

Rove and other officials used their RNC e-mail accounts heavily, according to the inquiry. For example, some 140,216 e-mails were sent or received by Rove and ultimately preserved by RNC IT systems, according to the report.

More than half of those e-mails 75,374 - were sent to or received from individuals using official ".gov" e-mail accounts, indicating they were for official business, according to the committee.

The problem with the use of the outside e-mail accounts, the report concludes, is that none of the RNC system e-mails for 51 of the 88 officials who used the system were preserved at all, leaving a gap in the presidential records that by law are supposed to be preserved.

For at least 37 White House officials for whom the RNC did preserve e-mails, there are "major gaps" in the e-mail records, the report states.

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