Court orders ARMS search

Court orders ARMS search

White House to produce e-mail records

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth last week ordered the White House to conduct a keyword search for 33 individuals and 20 search terms for e-mail messages stored on the Automated Records Management System. The messages could become evidence in a lawsuit.

The court ordered the White House to deliver the records within 20 days.

The Executive Office of the President can limit the scope of the search to the White House Office portion of ARMS, which has 19 segments, the court order states.

The White House has used ARMS, a keyword-searchable archive, since 1994, officials said.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued the preliminary search of e-mails in a ruling for Cara Alexander, et al. vs. FBI and John Michael Grimley, et al. vs. FBI'also known as Filegate.

Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm, is representing the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed by White House employees of the Bush and Reagan administrations who allege that their FBI files were wrongly accessed by the Clinton administration.

The White House and FBI are being sued under the federal Privacy Act, and individual defendants Bernard Nussbaum, a former White House counsel, and former aids Craig Livingstone and Anthony Marceca are being sued for common-law tort of invasion of privacy, according to Judicial Watch.

The court also ordered a search for messages about former White House employee Linda Tripp and former White House aide Kathleen Willey.

EOP is not required to search accounts established for the receipt of citizen e-mail for the president and first lady via the Internet.

The ruling only refers to searches for e-mail archived on ARMS. The court noted, 'E-mails available on backup tapes and what search should be performed regarding the hard drives will be addressed later.'

Lost letters

Two computer code errors caused ARMS' failure to archive some incoming e-mail messages. ARMS conducted a periodic scan of White House servers to create backup tapes meant for use in catastrophic system failure not for archival purposes, officials said [GCN, April 3, Page 1].

The White House awarded contracts to ECS Technology of Baltimore and SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va., to reconstruct the e-mails from about 5,000 backup tapes, officials said.

The contractors began work April 1; the process is to be completed in six to nine months, said Renato DiPentima, president of SRA's government-sector group.

'We are on the job as a subcontractor to do work related to inventory of the tapes, converting tapes to magnetic media and developing software so a query can be done in a database,' DiPentima said.

Inventory of the backup tapes is almost complete, he said.

The next step will be to create two duplicates of the original backup tapes'a working copy and a control copy, DiPentima said. The original computer tapes will be stored in the custody of Charles Easley, EOP security officer, according to court documents.

Following the duplication process, which will take 180 days, the backup tapes will be converted to magnetic media to enable a search of the e-mails, DiPentima said.

'We will take the records from the tape to disks and set up keys to search the information later. We will build a standalone database,' he said.

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