Data tapes offered in e-mail probe

Saturday, July 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON – The White House has yet to recover any missing e-mails sought by investigators and is turning over backup tapes that might contain the messages to independent counsel Robert Ray and the Justice Department, a judge disclosed Friday.

The FBI will step in and try to retrieve some of the missing e-mails.

The latest twist in the controversy over the missing e-mails played out in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who is presiding over a civil case involving the messages.

The White House belatedly disclosed this year that thousands of e-mails, including some from Vice President Al Gore's office, were not properly archived because of a computer glitch.

As a result, the messages were never reviewed by White House lawyers to determine whether they should have been turned over under subpoena to investigations ranging from impeachment and Whitewater to campaign fund raising.

Presidential aides have tried for months to retrieve the messages from the backup tapes.

Congress, Mr. Ray and the Justice Department are investigating whether the e-mail problem was an innocent mistake, as the White House contends, or part of an effort to obstruct their investigations. The White House denies wrongdoing.

At a court hearing Friday, Judge Lamberth authorized presidential aides to release some of the computer tapes to Justice Department campaign-finance investigators.

A government lawyer told the judge the White House is running into technical problems that will indefinitely delay the retrieval of missing e-mail. The White House had hoped to have the first batch of e-mail ready for investigators by June.

The independent counsel's office and the Justice Department "came to us and said the FBI might have a faster way to do this," said White House spokesman Jake Siewert. "The FBI is going to take a look and see if they can recover some of the e-mail from the tapes. We finalized an agreement earlier this week to do that. They'll take a test batch and look at them."