- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

More than five dozen backup computer tapes containing hundreds of missing e-mails from former Vice President Al Gores White House office cannot be retrieved, a computer technician has told a federal judge.
The e-mails were among thousands of subpoenaed White House messages never turned over to a federal grand jury and three congressional committees in separate investigations into Whitewater, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and campaign finance practices in the 1996 presidential election.
According to a three-page affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, computer technicians for Vistronix Corp., a firm hired to retrieve the missing messages, could not extract e-mails from 189 backup White House computer tapes 63 of which were from Mr. Gores office.
Efforts to get a comment from Mr. Gore last night were unsuccessful. Justice Department officials, who began an investigation into the missing White House e-mails last year, have declined to discuss the ongoing inquiry.
The April 6 affidavit, first reported by the Associated Press, cited unspecified problems in retrieving the documents during a year-long search that otherwise netted 3 million missing messages from the computer tapes.
The missing e-mails were discovered after contract employees from Northrup Grumman Corp. traced a computer glitch to an August 1996 programming error involving e-mail to and from 464 White House computer users, including the vice president. The problem was fixed in November 1998, although thousands of subpoenaed e-mail messages were never turned over.
The Northrup Grumman employees later told a House committee under oath that they were "threatened with retaliation" to keep the messages from being turned over. The White House denied the accusation.
According to the affidavit, Vistronix technicians reconstructed "3,075,513 unique non-duplicate e-mails, out of more than 2.9 billion processed from the relevant tape population" many more than had previously been expected to be among those that had never been searched for information about the Justice Department and congressional probes.
Officials at Vistronix, a McLean-based information-technology company, were not available last night for comment. The company had hoped to have the e-mail identified and copied by the end of 2000.
Last year, during an initial search of the backup tapes, several reconstructed e-mails showed that Mr. Gores office, despite repeated denials, was aware that an event at a California Buddhist temple was a campaign fund-raiser. Those e-mails left little doubt that top Gore staffers knew well in advance that the April 29, 1996, Hsi Lai Buddhist temple celebration in Hacienda Heights, Calif., was planned as a fund-raising event.
In August, Attorney General Janet Reno rejected a suggestion by the chief of the Justice Departments campaign finance task force that she appoint a special counsel to investigate Mr. Gores fund-raising activities. Task force boss Robert J. Conrad Jr. said at the time that the vice president may have lied when he denied knowing that the temple event was a fund-raiser.
A House committee said last year an investigation showed that the vice presidents office "took affirmative steps" to avoid routing personal e-mail messages to and from Mr. Gore to the White Houses Automated Records Management System. The ARMS system was designed to allow the White House to comply with subpoena requests and congressional oversight.
The Vistronix affidavit was filed in a pending $90 million class-action lawsuit by Judicial Watch, a public-interest law firm, in the so-called "Filegate" affair. The organization accused the Clinton White House of illegally gathering confidential FBI background files on former Reagan and Bush administration officials.


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