- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2000

The White House has begun a $3 million search for as many as 246,000 e-mail messages that a House committee believes may have never been turned over under subpoena to the Justice Department and at least three congressional probes.
White House Counsel Beth Nolan Thursday told the House Committee on Government Reform that the search, which will be conducted by ECS Technologies Inc. of Fairfax, Va., could take up to six months but said she expected all of the documents to be located.
"We have already begun the process that will enable us to search these records, and we will do so as quickly as possible," Miss Nolan said.
She said the search would aim to restore 3,400 backup tapes for the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and 625 backups involving Vice President Al Gore.
"The contractor's preliminary estimates and I want to emphasize preliminary because they are subject to amendment as the project proceeds and the contractor learns new information suggest that the requisite equipment and other resources will be in place, tested and ready to go in approximately 70 days," she said.
"We anticipate conducting the restoration in batches so we can have a rolling production," she said. "The contractor estimates this part will be completed in about six months from the beginning of the project."
The panel, led by Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, is investigating whether the White House withheld the release of thousands of e-mail messages received between 1996 and 1998 as part of a cover-up, and if Northrop Grumman Corp. contract employees were threatened to keep them secret.
The inquiry coincides with a probe by the Justice Department, which announced last week it was probing similar accusations.
Miss Nolan, during a hearing that often erupted into rancorous debate, told the committee that the "glitch" that caused the e-mail not to be collected was the result of "unintentional human error," and that no one at the White House "attempted to hide responsive information from this committee or any other investigative body."
She also said that until recently, the White House Counsel's Office was not aware of the "scope and nature" of the problem and had no reason to believe it affected searches made under subpoena.
Miss Nolan also disputed accusations that a "zip disk" given this month to the White House had e-mail from Monica Lewinsky to Betty Currie, President Clinton's secretary, and Ashley Raines, who worked in the White House Office of Policy Development Operations, containing undisclosed information.
She said the disk was a copy of a 1998 file by Northrop Grumman worker Robert Haas and had e-mail already produced.
But under questioning by Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio Republican, Miss Nolan acknowledged she had not reviewed the disk and that information concerning its content had come from Mr. Haas.
Justice Department lawyer James J. Gilligan told a judge Monday the EOP got the disk March 17, but had not reviewed its contents. He said content information had come from Northrop Grumman.
He also said the disk had been locked in the safe of White House Security Chief Charles Easley.
Miss Nolan also told Mr. Burton that an affidavit signed by White House computer specialist Daniel Barry describing the administration's system for archiving e-mail was technically true, although it failed to disclose that thousands of e-mail messages had not been retrieved.
Mr. Burton sent a criminal referral Thursday suggesting Mr. Barry committed perjury in a July 1999 affidavit in a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative public-interest law firm. In the document, he said e-mail at the EOP "has been archived in the EOP Automated Records Management System" since July 1994, but did not mention missing e-mail.
"E-mail was archived, but some e-mail was not captured," Miss Nolan said, adding that it had nothing to do with the e-mail problem.
Her comment sparked an angry response from Mr. Burton, who said he was "concerned" that White House and Justice Department lawyers had assisted Mr. Barry in the preparation of an affidavit they knew was false.
Mr. Burton also took a swipe at Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben, who had been subpoenaed to testify about the department's involvement but had no answers.
"What are you doing here?" Mr. Burton said. "It is inconceivable you come up here and not have any of the answers."

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