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Os arquivos digitais da Administração Bush

A administração Bush, que sai em 20 de janeiro, deixa um extraordinário volume de informações em formato digital. Apenas a Casa Branca produziu nos 8 anos do governo Bush 50 terabytes de arquivos (inclusive e-mails), que começam a ser recuperados e tratados pelo NARA. Esse volume é cinco vezes maior do que o deixado pela administração Clinton, como se vê na matéria abaixo.


Keepers of Bush data face system overload as electronic records snowball By Robert Pear and Scott Shane

International Herald Tribune – Sunday, December 28, 2008

WASHINGTON: The National Archives has put into effect an emergency plan to handle electronic records from the Bush White House amid growing doubts about whether its new $144 million computer system can cope with the vast quantities of digital data it will receive when President George W. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20.

The technical challenge was an inevitable result of the explosion in cybercommunications, which archives officials estimated will make the electronic record of the Bush years about 50 times as large as that left by the Clinton White House in 2001.

The collection will include top-secret e-mail tracing plans for the Iraq war as well as scenes from Barney Cam 2008, a White House video featuring the first pet.

Under federal law, the government has “complete ownership, possession and control” of presidential and vice-presidential records. The moment Bush leaves office, the National Archives becomes legally responsible for “the custody, control and preservation” of the records.

Archives officials who disclosed the emergency plan said it would mean that the agency would initially take over parts of the White House storage system, freezing the contents on Jan. 20. Only later, after further study, will archivists try to move the records into the computer system they have devised as a repository for digital data.

Questions about the archives’ capacity have added a new element to the uneasiness felt by open-government advocates and historians, who already fear that departing White House officials, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, may not turn over everything. Cheney asserted this month in a court case that he had absolute discretion to decide which of his records were official and which were personal, and so do not have to be transferred to the archives,

The National Archives has already begun trucking boxes of paper records from the White House to a warehouse it is leasing in Lewisville, Texas, not a great distance from where Bush’s presidential library is to be built, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

The archives invoked its emergency plan to deal with problems in transferring two types of electronic files: a huge collection of digital photographs and the “records management system,” which provides an index to most of the textual records generated by Bush and his staff members over eight years.

Archivists said it could be weeks or months before those files could be indexed and searched.

In their plan, archives officials wrote, the transition poses “unique challenges” because of the huge volume of electronic records, some of them in unfamiliar formats.

Although archivists have been working with the White House to survey the documents, “there is always a possibility that some electronic records may be overlooked,” the officials wrote.

If the electronic records of the Bush White House total 100 terabytes of information, as archives officials estimate, that would be about 50 times the volume of electronic records left behind by the Clinton White House in 2001 and about five times the contents of all 20 million catalogued books in the Library of Congress.

“It’s a monstrous volume of material, and some people wonder if the system can absorb it,” said Lee White, executive director of the National Coalition for History, a collection of 60 archival and historical groups.

Sam Watkins, a transition liaison officer at the archives, said his agency was expecting to receive 20 to 24 terabytes of e-mail alone from the Bush White House. By contrast, Watkins said, the volume of e-mail from the Clinton White House was less than one terabyte.

While some routine messages may be of little interest to historians, the law does not generally permit White House officials to pick which messages to preserve. And for an administration not documented by the tapes that captured the inside story of the Johnson and Nixon White Houses, e-mail may provide a substitute, historians said.

The archives said it had “a high level of confidence” that it could bring the e-mail into its electronic record-keeping system and retrieve messages in response to requests from Congress and the courts.

But Thomas Blanton, director of the nonprofit National Security Archive, a plaintiff in several lawsuits seeking Bush administration records, said the National Archives’ track record did not justify such a claim. “Their confidence is inexplicable,” he said.

Archives officials said they might have been better prepared for the transition if the White House had cooperated earlier.

Millions of White House e-mails created from 2003 to 2005 appear to be missing and may not be recoverable. And in September 2007, the top lawyer at the National Archives wrote in a memorandum that he had “made almost zero progress” planning the transition because the White House had ignored repeated requests for infor-mation about the volume and formats of electronic records.

In May of this year, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that “the administration had not yet provided specific information on the volume and types of data to be transferred” to the archives. Linda Koontz of the accountability office warned in May and again in September that the National Archives might not be ready for the torrent of electronic records on Jan. 20.

Even if the technology were perfect, some historians, librarians and watchdog groups said they did not trust this administration to preserve its records.

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