By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 7, 2008; Page A04
The Bush administration has not found disaster recovery files for White House e-mails from a three-month time period in 2003, according to court documents filed this week, raising the possibility that messages sent before and after the invasion of Iraq may never be recovered.
The White House chief information officer, Theresa Payton, said in a sworn declaration that the White House has identified more than 400 computer backup tapes from March through September of 2003 but that the earliest recorded file was dated May 23 of that year.
That period was one of the most crucial of the Bush presidency. The United States launched the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, and President Bush declared the end of major combat operations on May 1.
Payton and other officials said that older e-mails could still be contained on the tapes because of the way the files are dated.
The administration also said it is still searching computer archives for e-mails that have been filed in the wrong "digital drawer." In addition, Payton and other officials have said that any e-mails missing from the White House archiving system might still be available on disaster recovery tapes.