(CN) - A federal judge in Washington, D.C., refused to dismiss a lawsuit pressing the Bush administration to recover millions of missing emails. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive said the White House has deleted more than 5 million emails.
With less than three months before Bush leaves office, U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy allowed the private groups to pursue their claim for the missing emails.
The White House could be missing as many as 225 days of email dating back to 2003, according to a White House document obtained by the Associated Press. CREW claimed the Executive Office of the President discontinued its Automated Records Management System in 2002 without replacing it with any system to automatically preserve White House correspondence. "As a result, since 2002, it has been possible for any emails housed on the White House server to be manually deleted by anyone who has access to the servers," the lawsuit claimed.
CREW said that between March 2003 and October 2005, at least 5 million emails "had been deleted from the servers and were recoverable only on back-up tapes."
The government argued that the courts cannot force the White House to retrieve any missing messages.
But Kennedy said the groups' request for recovery fell squarely under the Federal Records Act.
CREW executive Melanie Sloan called the ruling "a clear victory for the American people. The Executive Office of the President does have to answer for the missing email."
A White House spokesman said the opinion is under review.
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