George W. Bush Deleted 22 Million Emails from Private Server-Truth! & Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

President George W. Bush and/or Vice President Dick Cheney deleted or lost 22 million emails that were sent using a private server during the Bush administration’s first term.

The Truth:

The Bush administration reported that 22 million emails had been lost during a congressional inquiry in 2007, but the emails were later found to be mislabeled and many have since been released to watchdog groups.

Accusations about President George W. Bush’s handling of emails, and his administration’s use of a private server, re-emerged during the 2016 presidential campaign as Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server took center stage. Clinton defenders have pointed to the Bush administration’s use of a private email server, and it’s inability to produce 22 million emails upon request, to argue that the media and congressional Republicans had a double standard in dealing with Clinton’s email issues.

The Bush email fiasco was related to the firing of nine federal prosecutors in December 2006. Accusations that the firings were politically motivated led to a series of congressional hearings. In the course of those investigations, lawmakers requested email records and were told by Bush administration officials that millions of email records were not properly archived and had been “effectively deleted.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archives filed lawsuits claiming that the Bush administration knew as early as 2005 that its lack of an email archiving system violated federal laws requiring that presidential records be persevered.

The Clinton administration put in place an Automated Records Management System (ARMS) that “automatically captured, preserved and categorized all email sent through the White House email system” in accordance with the Federal Records Act (FRA) and the Presidential Records Act. However, the lawsuit alleged, ARMS was deactivated under the Bush administration, which ultimately led to millions of emails being lost:

In 2002, the EOP discontinued ARMS and did not replace it with any other system to automatically preserve White House e-mails or to categorize and separately archive FRA and PRA records. CREW’s Complaint sates, “As a result, since 2002, it has been possible for any e-mails housed on the White House servers to be manually deleted by anyone who has access to the servers.” CREW determined that “hundreds of days” of White House e-mails created between March 2003 and October 2005 were missing, amounting to at least five million e-mails that “had been deleted from the servers and were recoverable only on back-up tapes.” (The complaint) concluded that either server malfunction or manual deletion caused the loss of the e-mails. Although OA developed a plan to recover the missing e-mails and both OA and EOP developed a new records management system, “the White House has failed to implement any course of action to either recover the deleted e-mails from existing back-up tapes or implement an appropriate and effective electronic management system.

But the Bush administration’s email woes went deeper than first believed. Later, it was revealed that as many as 22 million emails were missing from the official record. The emails were lost, in part, because administration officials used a private server supplied by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and no archiving system was in place, it was reported at the time.

In December 2009, however, the Obama administration reported that it had recovered roughly 22 million Bush administration emails dating back to 2003-2005. The emails had been mislabeled, not deleted. A settlement negotiated between CREW and the National Security Archives and the Obama administration, which inherited the lawsuits, allowed for the release of some of the records:

The Obama administration has agreed to restore 94 days worth of emails as part of the settlement. Attempting to recover all of the lost data would have been too expensive and placed an undue burden on the new administration. The days that will be selected for email recovery will be based on volume and on external events.

CREW notes in its press release: “Documents produced so far show the Bush White House was lying when officials claimed no emails were ever missing. The record now proves incontrovertibly that Bush administration officials deliberately ignored the problem and, in fact, knowingly allowed it to worsen.”

Meanwhile, the AP reports that Former Bush White House spokesman Scott Stanzel defends the Bush White House administration. He claims that CREW is creating controversy over nothing. AP quotes him as saying, “The liberal groups CREW and National Security Archive litigate for sport, distort the facts and have consistently tried to create a spooky conspiracy out of standard IT issues.”

In the end, it’s true that Bush administration officials were widely believed to have “lost” 22 million emails. But in 2009, the Obama administration found that the emails had actually been mislabeled and some were released. That’s why we’re calling this one truth and fiction.

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Collected on: 10/31/2016

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