How hard is it to save your emails? The Bush administration seems to have underestimated the challenge. Tim Lee explains:
When the Bush administration took office, it decided to replace the Lotus Notes-based e-mail system used under the Clinton Administration with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. The transition broke compatibility with the old archiving system, and the White House IT shop did not immediately have a new one to put in its place.
Instead, the White House has instituted a comically primitive system called "journaling," in which (to quote from a recent Congressional report) "a White House staffer or contractor would collect from a 'journal' e-mail folder in the Microsoft Exchange system copies of e-mails sent and received by White House employees." These would be manually named and saved as ".pst" files on White House servers.
Due to the lack of a reliable archiving scheme, thousands of e-mails appear to have been lost, perhaps irretrievably. A 2005 analysis performed by McDevitt (while he was still on the White House Staff) found over 700 days with e-mails apparently missing from the "journaling" archives, including 12 days in which all e-mails from the president's immediate office were missing, and 16 days when all e-mails from the Vice President's office were missing. The White House Office of Administration has estimated that between 2003 and 2005, at least five million e-mails have been lost. Some of those may be recoverable from backup tapes, but in the absence of adequate logging features, there is no way to be sure all of the e-mails have been recovered.
Federal law requires the preservation of White House emails concerning official business, but senior officials don't seem terribly concerned. Lots more here.