|04-28-2001, 11:30 AM||#1 (permalink)|
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Former EPA Officials Erased Files
<font color="yellow">why does this not surprise me?... oh yea, it's a government agency that was staffed by Klinton <IMG SRC="smilies/rolleyes.gif" border="0"> </font c>
Friday April 27 6:47 PM ET
Former EPA Officials Erased Files
By DAVID PACE, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Electronic computer files of top Environmental Protection Agency officials under former President Clinton were erased in January, despite a court order to preserve records sought in a lawsuit by a conservative legal group.
Craig Lawrence, an assistant U.S. attorney, told U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth on Friday that the computer storage drives of former EPA Administrator Carol Browner and three of her top aides were erased by a contractor just before Clinton left office Jan. 20.
``We take this matter very seriously,'' Lawrence said. ``That's why we walked into court today and gave him as much information as we have.''
Lamberth ordered EPA on Jan. 19 to preserve all records relating to a lawsuit filed by the Landmark Legal Foundation last fall. The lawsuit, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, seeks documents relating to the involvement of outside groups in regulatory actions taken by EPA in the final months of the Clinton administration.
``It's very, very serious when evidence that is the subject of litigation is tampered with,'' said Mark Levin, president of the Herndon, Va., foundation that brought the suit.
In addition to Browner, the contractor also erased the storage drives on computers used by her chief of staff, the deputy administrator and an associate deputy administrator. The drives were erased as part of the regular process of moving from one administration to another, according to government lawyers.
After the government's disclosure, Lamberth granted the foundation's request to question Browner under oath about the information sought in the lawsuit. Officials said Browner personally ordered that her computer drive be erased before she left office.
Lamberth did not rule immediately on a request from Landmark that sanctions be imposed on EPA for violating his order to preserve the records.
Government lawyers said it is possible that the erased computer drives contained records that should have been disclosed to the foundation. The lawyers have been unable to determine if the drives were searched by EPA officials for material relating to the lawsuit before they were erased.
Levin said Landmark asked Lamberth to issue the protective order after EPA failed to produce any electronic mail generated by Browner, or any calendars or handwritten notes from her office.
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