A House committee has sent a memo to federal agencies dictating how they should conduct a wide search for e-mails involving political appointees, White House adviser Karl Rove and other aides.
The memo from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform provides a nine-step guidance on how Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wants bureaucrats to search six years' worth of e-mails.
"The search should include any e-mails received or sent by any covered agency official after January 20, 2001 and before April 12, 2007," says the two-page memo, a copy of which was obtained Monday by The Examiner.
Waxman's Democratic staffers earlier sent out a letter demanding e-mails, but agencies reported back that the request was unclear. "The following instructions provide additional guidance on complying with the committee's request," states the new memo, which was sent by e-mail on April 20.
Waxman has used his committee to launch a series of investigations into the Bush administration. In this case, his staff is investigating whether political appointees violated the Presidential Records Act by avoiding government e-mails, which are archived, and using private e-mail accounts provided by the Republican National Committee. The act requires that sufficient e-mails be retained to adequately document an issue.
A House Republican aide said no wrongdoing has been found so far. The aide said appointees typically use RNC e-mail accounts when they are conducting nongovernment political business.
The demanded search reaches into all corners of the federal government, even the Defense Department. One Pentagon official complained to The Examiner that working hours devoted to the war on terrorism are now being diverted to scan thousands of e-mails dating back to President Bush's first inauguration.
The oversight committee is looking for e-mails that were sent to, or received by, these accounts: gwb43.com, georgewbush.com and rnchq.org.
Its memo lists four types of "covered agency officials" - basically political appointees. It specifically mentions 15 people in whom the committee is particularly interested. They include Rove, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, and 13 other current and former White House aides.
"For each covered agency official, the search should include the official's e-mail account, any archive of e-mail account including printed e-mails where appropriate, servers, and any backup tape or other backup media containing e-mails to or from the official," the committee memo states.
The committee said that if an agency finds the request "unduly burdensome," it can divide its list of covered officials into two categories: ones who were likely to communicate with the White House and those who were not.