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White House Asked to Clarify E-Mail Policy

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By Gautham Nagesh February 20, 2009

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Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to the White House yesterday calling for the Obama Administration to clarify its policies on the preservation of emails.

In his letter to White House Counsel Gregory Craig, Issa cites reports of White House staff using Gmail accounts to conduct official business:

The use of personal e-mail accounts, such as Gmail, to conduct official business raises the prospect that presidential records will not be captured by the White House e-mail archiving system. Unless White House officials forward copies of their e-mails to their government e-mail account or maintain printed copies of the e-mail, there is a risk records subject to the PRA will not be retained as required by law. Moreover, what one official deems a presidential record under the Act, and what legally constitutes such a record may differ. Consequently, Gmail users on the President's staff run the risk of incorrectly classifying their e-mails as non-records under the Act.

Issa also points out the difficulties the last two administrations have faced with regards to e-mail archiving and asks Craig to clarify the Obama Administration's policies by March 4.

My colleague Jill Aitoro previously reported on the spat between the Democrats and the Bush Administration regarding the use of Republican National Committee e-mail accounts for government business. Notably, it was Issa himself who defended the practice and said Democrats should produce evidence of wrongdoing.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said evidence of presidential records on the RNC's systems should be present before Congress demands the backup tapes. "Do any of you know of inappropriate activity? [Or] is this a fishing expedition?"

Regardless, with the Democrats having made this an issue in the past it would behoove the White House to appear as transparent as possible with regards to their electronic records. We'll be keeping an eye out for Craig's response, but if you've received any e-mails about official business from a Gmail account, please shoot us an e-mail.

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