- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2000

The White House computer office offered to back up Vice President Al Gore's e-mails, but was told to "get lost" by a Gore political aide nicknamed the "Mad Deleter," a White House employee said in an affidavit filed yesterday.

Howard Sparks, a computer network specialist who works in the White House Office of Administration (OA), said the e-mails that Mr. Gore reported missing last week would still exist if the vice president's information specialist, Mike Gill, had not rebuffed the OA's offer to back them up in 1993.

In the affidavit, which was filed in federal court yesterday, Mr. Sparks said he and his boss met with Mr. Gill shortly after the vice president took office.

"At this meeting, we carefully explained to Mr. Gill the legal requirement that the Office of Vice President [OVP] manage its electronic records," Mr. Sparks testified. "We explained that this could be done by OA by backing up the OVP electronic records on tape and maintaining these backup tapes for potential legal proceedings.

"Mr. Gill did not care about these legal requirements and essentially told us to get lost, that the vice president's office would take care of its own records. Being in no condition to contradict a top political aide to the new vice president, we let the matter drop.

"If our advice had been followed, the year's worth of OVP e-mail [March 1998 April 1999] that was reported 'lost' last week by the Clinton-Gore White House would still be in existence," Mr. Sparks concluded. "They would have been properly backed up."

The Washington Times reported in February that e-mails sent to the White House had not been retrieved in a search of records subpoenaed by a grand jury and three congressional committees.

After the story was published, White House officials promised to provide investigators with backup copies of the quarter-million e-mails, which pertained to scandals such as the Monica Lewinsky affair, campaign fund-raising abuses and Filegate the White House's receipt of secret FBI files on Reagan and Bush administration officials.

However, the White House announced a week ago that e-mails sent to Mr. Gore's office will never be found because a "technical error" resulted in the failure of a backup tape system.

"Computers crash," Mr. Gore explained to Fox News Channel last week. "And that's what happened."

The vice president said he asked staffers about "three days of e-mails that disappeared" and instructed them "to make sure it didn't happen again." But he professed ignorance about missing backup copies of the e-mails.

"I don't know about the backup tapes," Mr. Gore said. "I read about that in the papers recently. I don't know anything about why that happened or or how it happened. I'm not an expert on computers."

Mr. Gore, who once claimed to have played a crucial role in the invention of the Internet, carries an electronic Palm Pilot on his belt and cultivates the image of a computer-savvy politician.

In 1997, he sat down with a Washington Post reporter and "demonstrated his technological prowess" for an article with the headline, "This Vice President's Best Friend Is His Computer Neither Work Nor Travel Nor Dark of Night Can Keep Al Gore From His E-Mail."

The case of missing White House e-mail was first discovered in 1998 by contract employees working for Northrop Grumman. Five of the employees told the House Government Reform Committee this year that they were warned not to discuss the problem. Three said they were threatened with jail if they mentioned the missing e-mails to anyone.

Mr. Gore's failure to turn over the e-mails does not surprise Mr. Sparks, who was appalled by Mr. Gill's attitude toward electronic record keeping.

"In fact, Mr. Gill was nicknamed the 'Mad Deleter,' " Mr. Sparks said in his affidavit. "This nickname referred to his propensity to delete electronic records as a method of dealing with computer-related problems."

The affidavit was filed by Judicial Watch as part of its class-action suit against the administration on behalf of Filegate victims.

Larry Klayman, chairman of the conservative public-interest law firm, said Mr. Sparks' testimony is particularly potent because he is a current White House staffer, not a disgruntled ex-employee.

"It obviously took a lot of courage to come forward while he is still working in the White House," Mr. Klayman said. "It bolsters his credibility."

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