Conservative group loses contempt bid on e-mails

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The Independent US

A conservative group was rebuffed in its effort to have a federal judge take custody of hundreds of thousands of White House computer messages in a controversy over e-mail.

At a hearing before U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth on Friday, the group, Judicial Watch, sought to have the Executive Office of the President found in contempt of court, claiming White House officials tampered with a computer disk containing some of the electronic mail.

Judicial Watch lawyer Larry Klayman focused on the White House's acknowledgment in congressional testimony Thursday that a mishap had occurred with a "zip disk" containing e-mails among Monica Lewinsky, Betty Currie and another White House aide.

The problem, which computer experts are still looking into, made it impossible for the White House to read the contents of the disk.

Justice Department lawyer James Gilligan provided assurances that there were a number of duplicate copies of the disk's contents and that any problem the White House created on the disk was inadvertent.

Lamberth rejected Klayman's request that the court hold an evidentiary hearing that could have been the first step in the White House surrendering custody of the e-mails.

Klayman's group is representing former appointees from the administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush whose FBI background files were gathered by President Bill Clinton's administration in 1993 and 1994, a fact that was not uncovered until 1996 during a congressional investigation.

An Independent Counsel closed out the criminal investigation of the FBI files matter, saying there was no credible evidence of criminal activity in the White House's gathering of the material.