Friday, May 9, 2008

Mosaic News - 5/8/08: World News from the Middle East

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The Truth Behind Drug Ads

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By Lisa Stark, Tom Shine, and Kate Barrett

Lawmakers question whether drug ads tell the truth.

The advertisement showed a plate of pasta and a grandfather in a bow tie. Its message was that regardless of whether you suffer from high cholesterol due to your eating habits or due to your genes, Vytorin could help.

Merck/Schering-Plough's Vytorin ad was heavily marketed even as the company delayed releasing a study that called into question the drug's effectiveness. Now it's among several ads pulled from the airwaves amid concerns that prescription drug advertisements can sometimes mislead and are not completely truthful.

"I think the main problem with directed consumer ads is they don't give consumers the information they need to make an informed decision about the drug," said Steven Woloshin, associate professor of medicine and of community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School. "They don't give the most fundamental information, which is how well does the drug work?"

Today, lawmakers took aim at drug ads during a Capitol Hill hearing, questioning whether ads for pharmaceutical drugs are marketing or educational tools, or downright deceptions.

"American consumers should not have to rely on the oversight function of Congress to make sure drug companies tell the truth in their advertisements," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce panel's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

In 2006, drug companies spent nearly $5 billion on direct ads to consumers, an 80 percent increase over what they were spending in 2002, according to IMS Health. Those efforts pay off: Every dollar spent on direct-to-consumer advertising results in $6 in increased sales, according to the House committee's staff. The increase in money spent on ad campaigns surpasses the increase in money spent on research and development for new drugs in the past decade.

But ads tend to play up the benefits of a drug and play down its risks, according to Ruth S. Day, director of Duke University's Medical Cognition Laboratory.

Day found that 80 percent of people who saw drug ads remembered a drug's benefits, while only 20 percent could recall its side effects. She said ads often provide information about a drug's risks by using a faster speech rate or during visual and auditory distractions.

"There's currently, and has been for a long time, an unfair balance between the presentation of the risks and the benefits of these ads," Day said.

As a result, cardiologist Robert Marshall said it can take time to explain the full story to patients asking about a specific drug they have seen on television.

"We spend a lot of time explaining away why they shouldn't be on certain medications, or at least should be addressing other things that should be as important, like lifestyle, diet, exercise, that make as big or a bigger difference in the long term," Marshall said.

Woloshin said advertisements for the sleep aid Lunesta also painted a less than accurate picture.

"In the case of Lunesta, if I don't take the drug, it's going to take me about 45 minutes to fall asleep on average," Woloshin said. "If I take the drug, it'll take about 30 minutes to fall asleep."

An ad for Pfizer's cholesterol drug, Lipitor, featuring Robert Jarvik, also came under fire recently for giving "misimpressions." Ads for Lipitor and Vytorin were voluntarily taken off the air not long after the panel started investigating direct-to-consumer advertising in January.

On Thursday, James Sage, senior director and team leader for Lipitor at Pfizer Inc., maintained that direct-to-consumer ads "encourage an active partnership between patients and their doctors." Still, he said that "going forward we are committed to making sure there's greater clarity in advertising."

Nancy H. Nielsen, president-elect of the American Medical Association, told lawmakers that the AMA strongly discouraged doctors from appearing in ads because "they don't know the patients they're talking to," and she believes the Food and Drug Administration should be given more authority to preapprove these types of ads.

"It is frankly fairly clear that the majority of what's happening has a marketing effect and not an educational effect," Nielsen said.

According to Marcia G. Crosse, director of health care at the Government Accountability Office, the FDA is not completely effective in regulating the ads.

Though the FDA issues warning letters to those companies it finds to be in violation, Crosse said, "the amount of time it takes to draft and issue letters has continued to lengthen." She said it took the FDA more than six months in 2007 to issue letters.

Last year lawmakers set up a voluntary system that would allow drug companies to pay a fee to have the FDA review ads before they're made public.

The review, to be funded by the industry, would have allowed the FDA to hire enough people to review the ads prior to publication. One hundred drug companies signed up to participate. The voluntary review program would have raised more than $11 million from drug companies for prior review of the ads.

The program never launched because Congress then failed to give the FDA the authority to collect the fees from the drug companies.

Plame Seeks to Resurrect Lawsuit Against Bush Administration in CIA Leak Case

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By Matt Apuzzo

Washington - Former CIA operative Valerie Plame is trying to resurrect a lawsuit against those in the Bush administration she says illegally disclosed her identity.

A federal judge dismissed Plame's lawsuit last year, saying there was no basis to bring a case. Plame's lawyers asked a federal appeals court Friday to send the case back before the judge and force him to consider its merits.

Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, sued Vice President Dick Cheney; his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; former White House political adviser Karl Rove and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Plame's CIA position was revealed in a syndicated newspaper column in 2003, during a time when her husband was criticizing the march to war in Iraq. Armitage and Rove were the original sources for that story, which Plame believes was retribution for Wilson's criticism.

The article touched off a lengthy criminal investigation. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald never charged anyone with the leak but convicted Libby of obstruction and lying to investigators.

During the trial, it was revealed that Libby and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer also discussed Plame with reporters.

Plame says those leaks violated her constitutional rights. But U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed the case, saying the law requires Plame's complaints be raised under the Privacy Act. Plame's attorneys say that law is insufficient. They asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to send the case back to Bates for reconsideration.

With the exception of Cheney, those named in Plame's lawsuit have left the administration.

House of Representatives passes Democratic home mortgage bill backed by the Fed and banking industry

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By Barry Grey

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that provides limited relief to a fraction of the millions of homeowners who are unable to meet their mortgage payments, while enabling mortgage companies and banks to offload failing loans to the federal government.

The bill passed by a vote of 266 to 154, with 39 Republicans joining with all but six House Democrats to support the measure. President Bush on Wednesday announced that, should a similar measure be passed by the Senate, he would veto the bill. The upper legislative chamber is scheduled to consider its version of the bill next week.

The House bill, authored by Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is carefully tailored to marginally reduce the flood of home loan defaults and foreclosures, at a minimal cost to the government, so as to stabilize the housing market and stem the losses suffered by banks and financial institutions from the collapse of subprime mortgage-backed securities.

The main provision of the House bill calls for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to guarantee up to $300 billion in refinanced home loans. Home owners with subprime and adjustable rate mortgages, who demonstrated their ability to pay off a refinanced loan, would have the principle on their loans reduced and the debt converted to a thirty-year, fix-rate mortgage, resulting in lower monthly payments.

Home owners who received refinanced mortgages and subsequently sold their homes would be forced, under the plan, to pay the government a portion of the profit, if any, they made from the sale.

The plan is entirely voluntary, i.e., banks and mortgage lenders would have the option to accept a reduction in the principal on troubled loans in return for a federal guarantee on the refinanced mortgages. Any losses from defaulted FHA-backed loans would be borne by the federal government, not the banks or mortgage lenders.

No bank or mortgage lender would be required to participate in the plan, and the financial firms would decide which, if any, loans they refinanced in return for a government guarantee against losses. As a result, mortgage companies and banks that decide to participate will “cherry pick” the loans they refinance, choosing from among the loans which qualify under the terms of the bill only those they believe most likely to default.

A major goal of the plan is to reduce the rising number of homes that are “underwater”—worth less on the market than the outstanding debt owed to the mortgage provider. Estimates of the current number of such home-owning families in the US vary between 4 million (roughly one in 12 families with mortgages) and 10 million. With home prices expected to fall another 15 percent over the next two years, Moody’s predicts that by early 2009 nearly one in four, or 12 million, homeowners will be underwater.

It is generally believed that the credit squeeze and resulting banking crisis can be overcome only if and when the housing market stabilizes and home prices stop falling.

Congressman Frank had said his bill would provide relief to between 1.5 million and 2 million distressed home owners over the next five years. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last week released an estimate that concluded the measure would help a maximum of 500,000 home owners. With 1.5 million families already in foreclosure as of January, and another 2.8 million likely to face foreclosure over the next four years, according to the CBO, the House bill stands to help only 8.6 percent of foreclosure victims.

It does nothing to help those who have already had their homes foreclosed, or block banks and mortgage lenders from carrying out new foreclosures. Last week, RealtyTrac, a firm that tracks defaults and foreclosures, reported that foreclosure filings rose by more than 112 percent in the first three months of 2008 over last year. Lenders are currently filing foreclosure proceedings against more than 7,000 home owners a day.

The CBO explained that of the 9 million home owners who hold subprime or other high-interest mortgages, “most would mot be refinanced under the proposed program.” Some 40 percent, it noted, have second liens on their homes, and the holders of these loans are unlikely to agree to forgive a portion of the debt. Other borrowers will not be aware of the program, and still others will be unable to afford even a cheaper loan because of “a significant event, such as job loss, illness, divorce or death.”

Of the approximately 1.4 million remaining subprime borrowers, according to the CBO, less than 40 percent are likely to find their primary lenders willing to participate in the plan.

For these reasons, the CBO estimated that the actual cost of the program—resulting from defaults of FHA-backed refinanced loans—would amount only to $2.7 billion over the next five years. This is less than the amount spent on the Iraq war every 15 days, and a billion dollars less than the 2007 earnings of the top hedge fund manager in the US.

Congressional Democrats did not dispute the CBO’s findings. Steven Admamske, a spokesman for Rep. Frank, called the CBO estimate “very good news.” During the debate on the House floor Thursday, Frank defended his bill on the basis of the 500,000 figure.

Banking industry associations are generally supporting the bill, because it is entirely voluntary, gives banks the option to offload bad loans to the government, and does not prevent banks from foreclosing on home owners or impose other restrictions.

The bill also includes a provision barring lawsuits against certain mortgage servicers.

In a speech Monday at Columbia University in New York, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke tacitly endorsed the Democratic measure, saying “the best solution” for home owners whose mortgage debt is greater than the value of their home “may be” a modification of the loan to make it more affordable, “perhaps combined with a refinancing by the Federal Housing Administration or another lender.”

Frank sought to win the support of the Bush administration by including in the bill several measures promoted by the White House, including tighter regulation of the government-chartered mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an overhaul of the FHA and an expansion of the cap on mortgage revenue bonds issued by states and localities.

However, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, after some wavering, said Wednesday he opposed the bill on the grounds that it is “too prescriptive and goes too far in terms of shifting risk from lenders to taxpayers.” He added that the Bush administration did not want to impede a “necessary correction” in house prices.

Bush, after meeting with Republican legislators Wednesday, said he was opposed to the bill because it would “reward speculators and lenders.” He said he would “veto the bill that’s moving through the House today if it makes it to my desk.”

This supposed aversion to “rewarding speculators” comes from an administration that helped broker the rescue of Bear Stearns in March with $29 billion in guarantees from the Fed and has worked with the Fed to pump close to $1 trillion into the financial markets and provide backing for a half-a-trillion dollars in mortgage-backed securities held by Wall Street banks and finance houses whose value has plummeted since the collapse of the housing market.

The administration’s programs to deal with the housing crisis, all based on voluntary agreements with major Wall Street firms and mortgage lenders and servicers, have to date aided a derisory number of homeowners. One program, called FHA Secure, has, according to some estimates, helped a total of 2,000 home owners. Another, called the Hope Now Alliance, has secured loan modifications for 179,500 borrowers.

When the Bush administration speaks of speculators, it includes the millions of home owners who were victimized by predatory lenders, who pushed subprime adjustable rate mortgages on unsophisticated home buyers with the assurance that home prices would continue to rise and the buyers would be able to refinance out of their high-interest rate loans before their mortgages reset to even higher monthly payments.

As the Treasury Department argued in a recent power point presentation, “Home owners who can afford their mortgage but walk away because they are underwater are merely speculators.”

There are indications that, despite Bush’s veto pledge, the administration is looking to negotiate a deal with the Democrats that would provide even more sweeteners for the banks and mortgage companies. Keith Hennessey, director of the White House National Economic Council, said Wednesday that differences between congressional Democrats and the White House were not “insurmountable.” Hennessey, according to the Wall Street Journal, “expressed interest in finding a way for the White House to get more involved in negotiations as the debate advances.”

The Journal reported that the White House wants “greater flexibility” for the FHA and lenders than that provided in the House bill. Specifically, it wants to give the FHA “the ability to charge higher premiums for higher-risk deals—for instance, those involving home owners with low credit scores."

Crude Jolt for US as Iran Scraps Oil Trade in Dollar

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Mumbai - With Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, shifting its crude trading to the euro and the yen, instead of the US dollar, treasury managers feel that this could well be the first challenge to the US dollar's dominance as currency of global trade.

On Wednesday, Iran decided to make all transactions with euros in Europe, and the Japanese yen within Asia. This was largely triggered by the tensions between Iran and Washington for the past few years and lately, due to the weakening of the dollar. Despite its weakened position against almost every currency last year, the dollar has continued to dominate as currency of trade. Traders continue to use the greenback as it was a convenient currency. While exporters stood to gain by billing in dollars, buyers did not always agree. Also, there were logistics problems in carrying out trade in multiple currencies.

However, unlike other trading countries, the inconvenience of moving away from the dollar is not enough to deter Iran. The Islamic republic's decision to reduce exposure to the dollar is more political than economic with the United States ratcheting up sanctions because of a dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme. In December, an official said 90% of its oil export earnings were outside the dollar.

"All of Iran's oil trading is being done with the euro and the yen," Hojjatollah Ghanimifard, international affairs director of the National Iranian Oil Company, told Fars News Agency. "We agreed with all the buyers of Iran's crude to trade oil in currencies other than the dollar," he said. "In Europe, Iran's crude is being sold in the euro, in Asia in the euro and the yen, and trading with the yen has not only been in Japan."

Other treasury managers said the impact on the dollar could be much more intense if other economies such as Saudi Arabia and Russia decide to follow suit. Another forex manager added that much would depend on the bilateral deals between Iran and the countries buying oil from it and the former's negotiating capabilities. In the past, Iranian officials have said oil remained priced in the US dollar, but with actual payments carried out in other currencies.

Iran said it earned $70 billion from oil exports in the year to March, windfall revenues on the back of soaring crude prices. International crude prices recently hit almost $120 a barrel while Iran media said Iranian crude had risen above $102 a barrel.

The United States, while leading efforts to isolate Tehran which it accuses of seeking nuclear weapons, has slapped sanctions on Iranian banks and other bodies, moves that prompted many foreign banks to cut dollar dealings with Iran or stop all business. The UN Security Council has also imposed limited sanctions on Iran, which insists its nuclear plans are purely peaceful efforts to master skills to generate electricity.

A senior treasury manager with a multinational bank pointed out that all other commodities continue to be quoted in dollar terms and pricing of oil for Iran would certainly be an issue. It would mean that Iran would have to continually keep track of the US dollar-euro and dollar-yen exchange rate movements for pricing purposes. Iran is a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Developing Countries (Opec) and ranks amongst the world's top three holders of proven oil and natural gas reserves. Iran has also vowed to lower the volume of dollars in its foreign trade, apart from its foreign reserves.

Iran is OPEC's second-largest exporter after Saudi Arabia, and is the fourth-largest exporter of crude oil globally after Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Norway. Natural gas accounts for half of Iran's total domestic energy consumption while the remaining half is predominately oil consumption.

Lost E-Mails Obscure 'Plame-gate'

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By Jason Leopold

Earlier this week, the White House disclosed that it could not recover lost e-mails from emergency backup tapes for the period covering the invasion of Iraq and the U.S. failure to find Iraq’s alleged WMD.

This new gap – from March 1, 2003, to May 23, 2003 – also may have wiped out evidence of how George W. Bush and his top aides reacted to the emerging criticism from former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson that the White House had sold the war using false claims about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger in Africa.

“It seems clear now that the e-mail backups are spotty and that there is no guarantee that there are backup tapes for all of [Executive Office of the President] during the period of concern, March 2003-October 2005,” said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel of George Washington University’s National Security Archive, one of two organizations suing the White House in hopes of forcing the administration to preserve its e-mails.

“There are no tapes from earlier than May 23, 2003,” Fuchs added, referring to an apparent violation of the Presidential Records Act. “So, anything deleted from the EOP network prior to May 23, 2003 (particularly between March 2003 and May 23, 2003) is missing from the backup tapes.”

In a federal court filing this week, the White House confirmed the failure to recover lost e-mails from the emergency backup tapes.

White House Chief Information Officer Teresa Payton and press secretary Dana Perino have blamed the loss of the e-mails on the administration’s transition from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook.

Other e-mails are missing from a period of several weeks from late September to early October 2003, another key timeframe when the White House was caught up in a growing scandal over the leaking of Wilson’s wife’s status as a covert CIA officer in reaction to Wilson’s public criticism of the Niger claims.

Senior administration officials disclosed Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity to several journalists in early summer 2003, leading to its publication in a July 14, 2003, article by right-wing columnist Robert Novak.

However, it was not until September 2003 that a CIA complaint to the Justice Department sparked a criminal investigation into the identity of the leakers. At first, however, the probe was under the control of Attorney General John Ashcroft and did not appear likely to lead to a major scandal.

The White House responded to press inquiries disingenuously, claiming Bush took the leak very seriously and would punish anyone involved.

“The President has set high standards, the highest of standards, for people in his administration,” press secretary Scott McClellan said on Sept. 29, 2003. “If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.”

Bush personally announced his determination to get to the bottom of the matter.

“If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is,” Bush said on Sept. 30, 2003. “I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true.”

Hiding the White House Role

Yet, even as Bush was professing his curiosity and calling for anyone with information to step forward, he was withholding the fact that he had authorized the declassification of some secrets about the Niger uranium issue and had ordered Vice President Dick Cheney to arrange for those secrets to be given to reporters to undermine Wilson’s criticism.

In other words, though Bush knew a great deal about how the anti-Wilson scheme got started – since he was involved in starting it – he uttered misleading public statements to conceal the White House role.

The missing e-mails from March 1, 2003, to May 23, 2003, cover another timeframe that is important to the “Plame-gate” affair. During this period, questions about the veracity of Bush’s Niger claims first surfaced.

During his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, President Bush had cited what are now called the “16 Words” – “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

However, on March 7, 2003, Mohammed ElBaradei, head of International Atomic Energy Agency, told the UN Security Council that the Niger documents were forgeries and could not be used to prove Iraq was a nuclear threat.

The next day, Wilson appeared on CNN, commenting on Bush’s use of information that the IAEA had refuted.

"Well, this particular case is outrageous,” Wilson said. “We know a lot about the uranium business in Niger, and for something like this to go unchallenged by U.S. – the U.S. government – is just simply stupid.

“It would have taken a couple of phone calls. We have had an embassy there since the early ’60s. All this stuff is open. It’s a restricted market of buyers and sellers.”

Wilson added: "For this to have gotten to the IAEA is on the face of it dumb, but more to the point, it taints the whole rest of the case that the government is trying to build against Iraq."

What Wilson didn’t disclose at the time was that he had personally traveled to Niger a year earlier on behalf of the CIA – in response to an inquiry from Vice President Dick Cheney – to investigate whether Iraq had tried to buy uranium from the African country. Wilson had reported back to the CIA that the suspicions were almost certainly false.

Wilson’s critical CNN comments apparently caught the attention of the Bush administration. A month-old Chicago Tribune op-ed by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that had promoted the Niger allegations was redistributed by the State Department on March 10, two days after Wilson appeared on CNN.

The column, "Two Potent Iraqi Weapons: Denial and Deception," repeated the suspicion that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger.

On the Attack

The Bush administration also went on the offensive against the IAEA. In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on March 16, Vice President Cheney rebutted ElBaradei’s debunking of the Niger documents as forgeries.

“I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong," Cheney said. The IAEA “has consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past.”

The next day – March 17 – Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, sent a letter to President Bush further challenging his use of the Niger suspicions and citing ElBaradei’s findings.

“As subsequent media accounts indicated, the evidence contained ‘crude errors,’ such as a ‘childlike signature’ and the use of stationery from a military government in Niger that has been out of power for over a decade,” Waxman wrote.

Waxman demanded “a full accounting of what you knew about the reliability of the evidence linking Iraq to uranium in Africa, when you knew this, and why you and senior officials in the Administration presented the evidence to the UN Security Council, the Congress, and the American people without disclosing the doubts of the CIA.”

Bush didn’t respond to Waxman. Two days later – on March 19, 2003 – Bush ordered U.S. military forces to invade Iraq.

Now, more than five years later, it appears internal White House e-mails that could shed light on what Bush and his circle knew about the unreliability of their evidence on Iraq’s WMD may have been lost in an electronic black hole.

The black hole also may have swallowed internal e-mail traffic relating to the then-escalating conflict with former Ambassador Wilson as he edged toward going public with his inside knowledge about the unreliability of the Niger suspicions.

The Early Plame-gate Affair

On May 6, 2003, a New York Times column by Nicholas Kristoff used Wilson as an anonymous source to report that the administration may have knowingly used the phony Niger documents to win support for the war.

“I’m told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president’s office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger,” Kristoff wrote.

“In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the CIA and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged. The envoy’s debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted – except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.”

Two months later, on July 6, 2003, Wilson attached his name to his Niger accusations in a New York Times op-ed. By then, the White House was working aggressively behind the scenes to cast doubt on Wilson’s credibility, including the suggestion that his CIA wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, had arranged Wilson’s trip to Niger as a junket.

When Novak blew Plame’s cover 10 days later, CIA officials were outraged, leading to their demand for the leak investigation which began in September 2003. That, in turn, prompted misleading White House statements about the non-involvement of key figures, such as Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove and Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

However, the leak investigation took a surprise turn in December 2003 when Attorney General Ashcroft recused himself over a conflict of interest and Deputy Attorney General James Comey named U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as a special prosecutor.

Fitzgerald approached the investigation more aggressively and eventually secured the indictment and conviction of Libby on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. In the aftermath, Bush commuted Libby’s prison sentence, sparing him from 30 months in jail.

Since then, the Plame-gate affair has faded from public attention, but it now appears that historians, too, will be denied anything approaching a full record of the scandal.

Payton, the White House chief information officer, said any further attempt by U.S. Magistrate John M. Facciola to force the administration to retain all e-mails on the White House network would "yield marginal benefits at best, while imposing substantial burdens and disruptions."

But David Gewirtz, an expert on e-mail, and the author of the book Where Have All the Emails Gone? believes the loss of e-mails covering the March to May 2003 period is suspicious.

“Sadly, neither elected nor appointed officials in Washington are making the situation any better,” Gewirtz wrote in a technical column about the issue. “In fact, it’s getting worse. I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s time to call for a special prosecutor. We now have official White House statements that federal laws are being broken, and I don’t see any way for this to be resolved without escalation.”

Gewirtz said he contacted Judge Facciola to offer some technical advice on how to possibly uncover the lost e-mails but was told, “The judge is quite technical.”

“White House e-mail is very problematic and, instead of productive action, we’re seeing our Washington friends – even those charged with ultimate oversight – ignoring very practical solutions and instead spinning their wheels, at the expense of both present-day Americans and the historical record,” Gewirtz added.

“What offends me as an IT professional is that none of these problems are insurmountable. In fact, most of them are easy to solve. What’s worse: not a single private-sector CIO [chief information officer] would be allowed to get away with negligence on this massive scale.”