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Plame Investigation and Missing Emails Timeline

Okay, what follows is an uber-timeline, matching the dates for which OVP and WH don’t have any email archives to the Plame investigation, as well as laying out further details on how the investigation proceeded over time. Before you read further, a couple of important comments:

  • It would be completely irresponsible to assume that the email losses are entirely related to the Plame investigation. The large number of emails missing from CEQ, CEA, OMB, and OTR shows that, even if the emails were disappeared deliberately (which is a big assumption), they were disappeared for a myriad of reasons, many of them completely unrelated to the Plame investigation. That’s part of the reason I did the Medicare Part D post–while that post, like this one, is completely speculative, it shows there may be any number of explanations for the missing emails.
  • This post relies on information about the investigation revealed during the Libby trial. With one exception (the WHIG subpoena), those materials cover only subpoenas to OVP. There are undoubtedly subpoenas to the White House that we don’t know about that may pertain to these dates.
  • Remember that, in addition to the days for which no email archives exist for a given office, there are a large number of days for which offices don’t have archives of all the emails (that is, days when an archive includes vastly fewer emails than the office would have sent). So this timeline probably leaves out a large number of days which might be interesting or pertinent, because some significant number of emails are missing from the archives.
  • Even if all the connections you could might draw from this timeline were valid, they still wouldn’t explain all the funkiness with email pertaining to the Plame investigation. It still doesn’t describe possible funkiness with the Rove-Hadley email, and the search terms used to find emails may have led to further funkiness.
  • I will do a speculative post on some of the connections we might draw (probably tomorrow or Monday, I’m toast). But understand that this whole examination is one big experiment, which has the potential of drawing completely bogus conclusions. By looking solely at two discrete events, we presume a connection between them that ignores the complexity of the White House, or even the sheer number of potential scandals! Read more

Missing Emails: Addington’s Search Terms

Among the documents introduced at the trial was a draft version of the search that David Addington requested Keith Roberts of the Office of Administration to do on the emails on the OVP server. This is not a final version–it is what Addington sent to Deputy Special Counsel Roos to get his approval before he submitted it to Roberts to do his search. So hopefully Roos fixed some of the glaring holes in the email search–I don’t know.

In any case, here are the searches Addington requested in order to elicit emails on or to journalists from June 1 to October 31, 2003 and Joe and Valerie Wilson from October 1, 2003 until January 23, 2004 (I’m having a few technical issues, so this isn’t an image; make sure you click through to see the PDF):

First Search

Search for email messages created between June 1, 2003 and October 31, 2003, inclusive through use of the following search terms:

"_Novak_"
"_Royce_"
"_Phelps_"
"_Leiby_"
"Mike_Allen"
"Dana_Priest"
"Glenn_Kessler"
"Matthew_Cooper"
"_Dickerson_"
"_Calabresi_"
"Michael_Duffy"
"_Carney_"
"Evan_Thomas"
"Andrea_Mitchell"
"Chris_Matthews"
"_Russert_"
"Campbell_Brown"
"_Kristof_"
"_Sanger_"
"Judith_Miller"
"_Hitt_"
"_Gigot_"
"John_Solomon"
"Jeff_Gannon"
"Talon_News"

Second Search

Search for e-mail messages created between October 1, 2003 and January 23, 2004, inclusive, through use of the following search terms:

"Joseph_C._Wilson" or "Joseph_wilson" or "Joe_wilson" or "Ambassador_wilson" or "Amb._Wilson" or "Amb_Wilson" or "Plame_" or "Niger_"

Now, once again, I don’t know whether this search for emails used these precise search terms, but if it did, here are the gaping holes which the search wouldn’t cover:

Journalist Names

For the journalists with unusual last names, Addington requests a search of those last names, which would be the most expansive search. Such journalists include Russert, Sanger, and Kristof–all names that, by the time this thing was done (and certainly before for Paul Gigot and Timmeh Russert)–were probably self explanatory without the first name. Curiously, the list of last name searches includes Dickerson; that’s surprising because John Dickerson’s last name is neither so unique nor his role in this story so central (unless you’re trying to make Ari Fleischer the fall guy) that it should be self-standing.

But notice some of the journalists for whom Addington submits first and last name, in quotes, that would return just that string: Judith Miller, Matthew Cooper, and Andrea Mitchell. This search will probably return any email from or to these journalists, picking up email signatures with their full names. Read more

Disappearing White House Emails Timeline

Jeff kicked my arse on a timing related issue yesterday, so I thought I better lay out the disappearing White House email timing all nice and neat like. Much of the detail on emails relies on some very cool work Jeff did on the emails.

I’ll move this over into a permanent timeline after you guys tell me what I’m missing (Jeff, I’m looking at you).

February 26, 2001: Gonzales informs White House staff they must preserve their email.

April 2001: GAO report on problems with ARMS and emails from the VP’s office in the Clinton Administration.

June 4, 2001: Bush announces plan to name CIO to manage and monitor email.

2001, unknown date: Susan Ralston prints off Rove email in response to Enron inquiry, gives that email to Alberto Gonzales, presumably alerting him to Rove’s use of RNC servers for official emails.

Late 2001 to early 2002: White House deactivates ARMS system put in place by Clinton Administration to archive emails.

Between 2002 and 2003: White House converts from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange.

March 2003: Starting date of period during which White House has incomplete archives for emails.

July 11, 2003: Rove writes Hadley email immediately after his call with Matt Cooper.

September 26, 2003: DOJ starts an investigation into Plame leak.

September 29, 2003, morning: Scottie McClellan claims ignorance of a DOJ investigation into the leak.

September 29, 2003, evening: John Ashcroft informs Alberto Gonzales of investigation.

September 30, 2003, morning: Alberto Gonzales informs White House staff of investigation.

September 30, 2003, 6:15 PM: Alberto Gonzales informs White House what to retain.

October 2003 (unknown date): White House CIO stops "recycling" backup tapes.

October 1, 2003: Mayfield to Martin email passing on transcript from that day’s Press Gaggle; the email was not apparently turned over until February 2006, presumably among the emails "not archived properly."

October 2, 2003: DOJ requests White House turn over materials relating to Wilson, his Niger trip, Novak, Royce, and Phelps.

October 3, 2003: Gonzales informs White House to turn over materials by October 7.

October 5, 2003: Date on which Martin to Fleischer email printed out, apparently by Martin. It was originally written on July 7, 2003 and contained OVP talking points on Wilson for Fleischer to use in his press briefing, including the words, "Niger" and "Joe Wilson." Probably turned over to DOJ on October 9, 2003.

October 7, 2003: Reporter asks Scottie McClellan whether White House officials have to turn over emails they’ve deleted.

Q No, I understand that. I’m just saying how would this work? Let’s say I remember — I’m an official, I remember sending some email about this, but I’ve long since deleted it. How —

[snip]

Q I just want to be clear, though, the White House is obligated to provide emails that may have been deleted by the individual but are still archived by the White House —

MR. McCLELLAN: Look back — it said what is in the possession of, I believe, in the White House, the employees and staff.

October 13, 2003: Date on which July 11, 2003 Martin to Michael Anton email printed out. The email was apparently discovered in a search of OVP files by "OVP RM." It mentions "Niger" and "Wilson."

November 25, 2003: Per Hubris, date on which Rove aide B.J. Goergen prints out Rove-Hadley email (eventually turned over on October 14, 2004). The email mentions "Cooper" and Niger."

November 26, 2003: Oldest Rove email preserved by RNC.

February 2, 2004: Addington drafts a letter to Keith Roberts, Acting General Counsel, Office of Administration, listing the new terms for a search of the OVP domain. If "Joe Wilson" or "Niger" were mentioned in the October 1 gaggle, the October 1 Martin to Mayfield email should have been found in this search.

February 11, 2004: Date on which June 11, 2003 Martin to Mayfield email printed out. The email was apparently discovered in a search of OVP files by "OVP RM." It mentions "Pincus" and "Niger."

February 11, 2004: Date on which July 11, 2003 Martin and Cooper email exchange printed out. The email was apparently discovered in search of OVP files by "OVP RM." It mentions "Cooper" and "Niger." Cooper’s initial email was printed out, probably on July 11 or 12, though it has no date; Libby wrote notes on it on how he would respond to Cooper.

March 2004: FBI begins probe into Abramoff scandal.

March 24, 2004: Fitzgerald asks Libby about email, suggesting Fitzgerald was surprised by the lack of email he received as evidence.

Q. You’re not big on e-mail I take it?

A. No. Not in this job. I was in my prior job.

May 8, 2004: Date on which Abramoff-Susan Ralston email using the RNC server printed out by Greenberg-Traurig. This may have been the first public indication that White House employees (Ralston) were using the RNC server to bypass the more public White House server.

June 2004: Senate Indian Affairs Committee issues its first subpoena in its investigation into Abramoff scandal.

August 2004: In response to "unspecified legal inquiries," RNC stops its automatic email destruction policy. Read more

Scooter Libby, Still a Felon; the Unitary Executive, Still a Dubious Theory

I agree with the surmise of many that Libby dropped his appeal, partly, because the damn thing was getting expensive. And given this passage from Ted Wells’ statement on why they dropped the appeal, I also think Harriet Grant once again drove the decision-making process.

However, the realities were, that after five years of government service by Mr. Libby and several years of defending against this case, the burden on Mr. Libby and his young family of continuing to pursue his complete vindication are too great to ask them to bear.

Shorter Harriet: You’ve already sacrificed your law license, your children’s adolescence, and your pride for these thugs. Let it drop, please.

But I’m really curious by this part of Ted Wells’ statement:

Mr. Libby has made the decision to discontinue his appeal in recognition that success on the appeal would lead only to a retrial, a process that would last even beyond the two years of supervised release, cost millions of dollars more than the fine he has already paid, and entail many more hundreds of hours preparing for an all-consuming appeal and retrial.

Um, no, not really. Remember, there were two parts to Libby’s appeal. First, the claim that Judge Walton should have made Andrea Mitchell testify, so Wells could undercut her credibility and therefore suggest she had told Tim Russert of Valerie’s identity and Wells could argue that NBC was just out to get Scooter Libby.

Had Libby won that appeal, we would have had a retrial, with all the same witnesses and evidence, plus Mitchell. That’s it. And he probably still would have been found guilty, since David Addington still would have testified that Scooter Libby knew Joe Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA two days before, Libby claimed, he learned it from Russert "as if it were new." Read more