No amount of talking would be enough to convince the authorities that there was an innocent explanation for the missing documents. They would be absolutely convinced that the “mishandled” documents were intentionally destroyed in order to cover up wrongdoing.
And that is particularly true if — as is true for the Bush administration — the party claiming to have “lost” or “mishandled” such key evidence had a long history of making such claims repeatedly with the effect of blocking investigations. And the presumption of corrupt intent would be stronger still if, as in the case of the Bush administration, one of the party’s highest officials was recently found guilty of multiple counts of obstruction of justice and false statements for lying to FBI investigators and to a federal grand jury.
A.L. also notes that as a result of the “missing” emails in the Plame matter, “the White House’s dual email system was almost surely the subject of intense discussion in early 2004.” Thus, efforts to circumvent that system by deleting other emails and using RNC email systems were almost surely intentional.
In fact, whenever a White House staffer clicks “send,” a message reminds them that a copy of their missive is being sent to records management.
When it comes to saving e-mails, the White House is held to a higher standard than the private sector, and even Congress.
Companies that have a policy of saving e-mails usually do so only for three to six months, according to records-management consultants. Many companies consider them the same as phone calls, and don’t archive them unless they are equal in weight to a written communication.
But the White House is different. It saves its records for posterity. After President Clinton vacates his office next January, at least 30 million stored e-mails will be deposited with the National Archives, an unfathomable mountain of data ranging from “how about lunch?” to speech drafts, to perhaps more juicy communications. . . .
The White House, on the other hand, installed an e-mail archiving system in July 1994, after a court ruled that electronic records must be preserved in the same way as federal records. It was such a novel concept at the time that it had to be custom-built.
Rove and company were well-aware of their legal obligations to preserve their communications, and were equally aware that using their White House emails to communicate would result in such preservation. This lengthy record by the Bush administration of finding ways to “lose” key documents relevant to investigations and judicial proceedings ought to leave little doubt about the corrupt intent motivating this behavior.
UPDATE V: The Washington Post, December 18, 2003 (h/t AJ):
Hundreds of videotapes that federal prison officials had claimed were destroyed show that foreign nationals held at a New York detention facility after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were victims of physical and verbal abuse by guards, the Justice Department’s inspector general said yesterday. . .
A report issued by Fine in June found “a pattern of physical and verbal abuse” at the Brooklyn detention facility’s Special Housing Unit, where 84 of the men picked up after the Sept. 11 attacks were held. But investigators said then that firm conclusions on abuse were impossible in many cases because of the lack of videotapes, which prison administrators said at the time had been destroyed.
A federal dragnet after the Sept. 11 attacks resulted in the detention of more than 1,200 foreign nationals, including 762 people who were the focus of Fine’s original probe. Most were of Arab or South Asian descent and were held on immigration violations under a directive from Attorney General John D. Ashcroft while authorities attempted to determine whether they were connected to the attack or to terrorist groups. None was ever charged with terrorism-related crimes, however.
Many of the incidents of abuse were confirmed when investigators viewed more than 300 videotapes recorded from October to November 2001 that showed detainees being moved around the facility and within their cells, investigators said. . . .
The tapes eventually located in August had not been included on inventory sheets provided by the prison and were held in a storage room that also had not been disclosed to investigators, the report said. Many tapes from the period are still missing, and there are unexplained gaps the ones that were found, the report shows.
Incidents like this get reported piecemeal, in isolation, by our national press, but the clear implications are almost never realized and/or explained.
This administration does not believe it is subject to oversight or the rule of law. They hate investigations and scrutiny and do everything possible — legal and illegal — to block them. Let us emphasize that Lewis Libby — Dick Cheney’s most trusted advisor who, after Bush, Cheney and Rove, was the most powerful figure in the White House and one of the most powerful individuals in our entire government for five years — was just found guilty of multiple counts of perjury and obstruction of justice: first by a Republican, Bush-appointed prosecutor who indicted him, then by 12 carefully selected American citizens who were unanimous about his guilt in attempting to thwart a federal investigation into the administration’s conduct.
And when that happened, the only debate it prompted among Bush followers was whether Libby should be pardoned now or later, with most demanding a pardon immediately. This is what they do and who they are. They affirmatively believe in lying and destroying evidence and obstructing investigations in order to conceal their behavior. They believe that anything they do is, by definition, good and right, and therefore there is never anything wrong with attempts to hide it or even misleading the country about what they did.
It should not be necessary to explain why those are profound problems, and why the media’s reporting on these matters ought to reflect just how serious these scandals are.
UPDATE VI: On CNN tonight, Jack Cafferty took this post and used it as the basis for his commentary, and did a great job with it, featuring the key parts of virtually every incident listed here. C&L has the video here.