-Caveat Lector-


EPA Head Browner Asked for Computer Files to Be Deleted

By John Solomon Associated Press Writer

Published: Jun 29, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) - The same day a judge ordered her agency to preserve
records, then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner
asked a technician to delete her computer files, according to testimony in
a court case seeking contempt penalties against the government.

Browner says she did not know about the court order and simply was seeking
to remove some games, which her son had installed on her work computer,
before leaving office with other Clinton appointees on Jan. 19.

"It didn't seem appropriate to leave behind a computer with kids' games,"
Browner said in sworn testimony filed in court this week in a Freedom of
Information Act lawsuit.

The conservative group that sued the EPA for documents isn't buying
Browner's explanation, and on Friday asked U.S. District Judge Royce
Lamberth to hold her and other top staff whose electronic records were
destroyed in contempt of court.

The Landmark Legal Foundation offered Browner's deposition - as well as
other testimony indicating a deputy erased his computer files on Feb. 2,
two weeks after the court order - as evidence the agency violated
Lamberth's record preservation order.

"It is difficult to imagine a more thorough evisceration of the FOIA, and
the court's authority in enforcing this statute, than this case,"
the group said in seeking civil contempt penalties against Browner and
other officials.

The Freedom of Information Act guarantees Americans access to government
records. Landmark sued EPA last fall seeking documents detailing agency
contacts with outside groups concerning last-minute environmental
regulations the Clinton administration was imposing before leaving office.

The government acknowledged this spring that computer files from Browner
and other top staff were wiped clean despite Lamberth's order.

Government lawyers have blamed slow communications for the deletion of
records. EPA's inspector general, its internal watchdog, is investigating.

Lamberth issued a protective order on Jan. 19, as the Clinton
administration was heading out of office, that instructed EPA to preserve
all documents that might be relevant to the request.

That same day, computer technician contractor Kevin Bailey testified,
Browner came to him and asked that her computer be purged.

"She needed her files deleted; she wanted her files deleted," Bailey
testified in the Landmark lawsuit. '"I would like my files deleted. I want
you to delete my files.' Something like that."

Browner acknowledged making the request, but said she wasn't sure of the
exact terms she used.

At the time, she added, she did not know about the judge's order. Browner
said she doesn't think her request affected the case because she seldom
used her computer - except for occasional word processing or travel

Browner said she asked the technicians "to clean up the computer, and in my
particular instance, it meant my son's computer games. I had no idea what
else may have been on that computer since I didn't use it regularly."

Browner said she simply wanted the EPA to be courteous during the
transition to the new Bush administration and that staff, as part of the
routine, removed personal items that had apparently accumulated on their
work computers.

"People generally told me they were taking their personal matters off of
their computers, which caused me to remember the games," she said in a
deposition last week.

Browner testified she could not recall ever hearing about the FOIA lawsuit.
It had dragged on for months and was reported in news accounts, and e-mails
showed many of her top aides had discussed it.

Browner said the first she heard about the case was in a call in which one
of her aides told her about the judge's Jan. 19 order to preserve records.
That call, she said, came after she had already asked that her computer
hard drive be wiped clean.

                      Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh, YHVH, TZEVAOT

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