Key White House records in Plame probe disappear

Key White House email records in the investigation of the leak of a covert CIA operative’s name to the press are missing.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. the special prosecutor
in the criminal case against Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief
of staff said in a Jan. 23 letter that not all e-mail was archived in
2003, the year the Bush administration exposed the identity of
undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Lawyers for defendant I.
Lewis “Scooter” Libby this week accused prosecutors of withholding
evidence the Libby camp says it needs to mount a defense.

“We are
aware of no evidence pertinent to the charges against defendant Libby
which has been destroyed,” Fitzgerald wrote in a letter to the defense

But the prosecutor added: “In an abundance of caution, we
advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of
Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain
time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process
on the White House computer system.” His letter was an exhibit attached
to Libby’s demand for more information from the prosecution.

Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, said the vice president’s
office is cooperating fully with the investigation, and referred
questions to Fitzgerald’s office.

Libby is charged with five
counts of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI regarding how he
learned of Plame’s identity and what he did with the information.

Presidential Records Act, passed by Congress in 1978, made it clear
that records generated in the conduct of official duties did not belong
to the president or vice president, but were the property of the

The National Archives takes custody of the records when the president leaves office.

line: Accidents happen and there could be a benign explanation, but
this is highly irregular and invites suspicion,” said Steve Aftergood,
director of the Federation of American Scientists government secrecy

“A particular subset of records sought in a
controversial prosecution have gone missing,” Aftergood said. “I think
what is needed is for the national archivist to ascertain what went
wrong and how to ensure it won’t happen again.”