WASHINGTON (CNN) - A federal judge in Washington Monday allowed two private watchdog groups to sue the White House in a case involving potentially millions of missing e-mails.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy rejected a Bush administration request to throw out a suit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive. The government had argued the courts do not have the authority to require the White House to try to retrieve the e-mails in question.
CREW and the National Security Archive are trying to force White House officials to order the attorney general to initiate action to restore the deleted e-mails before they become irrecoverable.
"This is a huge victory for government transparency and the American people," said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.
The apparently missing messages cover a period between 2003 and 2005, a period during which there was not a functioning backup system.
The case does not stem from a specific investigation, but highlights the ongoing battle over the limits of executive power. The watchdog groups claim the White House failure to recover, restore, and preserve electronic communications violates the Federal Records Act. The White House maintains its compliance with the Federal Records Act is not subject to review by the courts.
Meanwhile, in a separate lawsuit, a Washington appeals court prepared to hear arguments by the government and CREW this Friday over whether the government is required to provide the e-mails under the Freedom of Information Act.