"Where are what?"

A White House study says 473 days of emails have gone missing. The White House says it isn't necessarily so.

Published January 18, 2008 12:29PM (EST)

473: Days between 2003 and 2005 on which no email messages were stored by one or more White House offices, according to an internal White House study disclosed Thursday by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman.

The White House is challenging the credibility of the Office of Administration study. From Thursday's White House press briefing:

Reporter: . . . Are there in fact the emails missing? What's the likelihood of their recovery versus the --

Tony Fratto: . . . I think to the best of what all the analysis we've been able to do, we have absolutely no reason to believe that any emails are missing; there's no evidence of that. There's no -- we tried to reconstruct some of the work that went into a chart that was entered into court records and could not replicate that or could not authenticate the correctness of the data in that chart. And from everything that we can tell, our analysis of our backup systems, we have no reason to believe that any email at all are missing.

Reporter: Where are they?

Fratto: Where are what?

Reporter: Where are part of --

Fratto: Which email? Look, no one will tell you categorically about any system -- any system, whether it's your system at Bloomberg or our system here at the White House, past and present, categorically that data cannot be missing. All of our review of it and all of our understanding of the way that the backup system works, it's a backup system that captures existing data, it captures things that are stored and archived. We have no reason to believe that there's any data missing at all -- and we've certainly found no evidence of any data missing.

Reporter: So that would mean that if you were asked, you would be in a position to comply with a request to produce those documents?

Fratto: Yes, which documents? I mean, if someone has a specific request for documents and they would like us to search for particular emails, of course we could search for emails -- and we have. And we have been responsive to requests in the past.

Reporter: And they have been produced? They do exist?

Fratto: We have produced emails upon request, either for our own internal review or sometimes in response to investigations that have taken place on the Hill. I mean, we have been able to go back and find email. The question is, have we been able to find a large mass of missing email? No, we have not located somewhere in the system the absence of something. We have not been able to note the absence of anything in our databases.

Reporter: You're saying they're there, you just haven't located them yet?

Fratto: No, I'm saying we have no evidence that shows that anything at all is missing. And you're saying, well, have you found the missing emails -- and we say we have no evidence that anything is missing.

Asked about Dana Perino's statement last year that as many as 5 million White House emails might be missing, Fratto said: "I'm not sure what was said on that. I can tell you today, though, that we have no evidence and we have no way of showing that any email at all are missing."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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