From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
White House is NOT scrubbing its site

October 21, 2004 5:43 PM

Brad Friedman has been documenting what he calls "scrubbing" of the website of audio and video content that is damaging to the President. Josh Marshall, Kos, and others have picked up on this.

It's NOT TRUE. I'm 99% certain they simply have a policy to delete old media files after a year. I did tons of research on that site for Uncovered, and I could never get any video that was more than a year old. When asked, the White House Press Office provided the footage on video tape.

More from the archive in Bush, Media.

White House is NOT scrubbing its site (10.21.2004)

Next Entry: The Cult of Bush (10.21.2004)
Previous Entry: George Tenet: War on Iraq "wrong" (10.21.2004)

Read the 27 comments.

Right Wing Robby:

*falls off his chair*

Thu Oct 21 2004 8:32 PM

Brad Friedman:


I've been looking into exactly that. But it doesn't seem to be the case.

There are many audio/video items much older than the "disappeared" stuff that is still online.

Radio Addresses, for example, are still on the site going all the way back to Aug 18, 2001 (though some just before and just after it are missing).

I'll hope to have more details soon on The BRAD BLOG. But since I caught your post saying it's "NOT" happening, I thought I'd correct you.

Nice work on OutFoxed, btw.

Fri Oct 22 2004 12:04 AM

Brad Friedman:

Sorry for the dupe post.

One more item for ya (in addition to a *bunch* of media all the way back from 2001 that is still online).

See this post:

For Documents (not Audio or Video) that was scrubbed, and the graphical red-handed proof for it.

Fri Oct 22 2004 12:18 AM

Jim Gilliam:

So the policy is to keep old radio addresses.

Find a single bit of video older than a year on the site. It can't be scrubbing if ALL of it is gone.

And the link you provided is to a content page, not a speech or anything of historical import. It's a content page listing the coalition members. Yes, it's a bit damning that they had to take it down, but it's not like they're changing the historical record.

The only time I can think where they did that was in the "mission accomplished" thing, and they claimed it was just a mistake.

I don't know about you, but I never delete blog posts (that would be dishonest), but I change/delete general pages on my site.

And I've never received a response to an email sent to the white house webmaster -- hardly evidence of a conspiracy.

Fri Oct 22 2004 7:45 AM

Jim Gilliam:

It's really annoying when people go immediately to conspiracy theories when there are quite obvious technical issues involved. Video files are gigantic, and maybe, just maybe, they figure it's not all that important to keep old files. Some maybe, that are really important -- the 2002 and 2003 SOTUs are both there, for example.

Fri Oct 22 2004 7:56 AM

Brad Friedman:

"Find a single bit of video older than a year on the site"

Sep 20, 2001 "Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People"
(Video there, but Audio Missing)

"And the link you provided is to a content page, not a speech or anything of historical import."

??? Not of "historical import"? The Vice-President, in a debate, slammed his challenger on Tuesday for not including Iraq as part of the coalition in a nationally televised debate. Prior to that debate, the White House list of "Who are the Members of the Coaltion?" was available on the website.

By the end of the week, the document and it's link had been excised all together. Now why would they do that?

And why is it now *impossible* to find a list of the current coalition members of the war we are in the middle of?

They had listed coalition members in at least 5 different documents on the WH site over the last year. Not anymore. You don't think that was meant to effect the current political sitch? (Which, in my less-than-legal-schooled judgement would be an illegal use of the tax payer funded WH website?)

"but it's not like they're changing the historical record."

If you simply remove a item from your blog without explanation later on because it proved to be wrong down the road, are you changing the historical record by doing so?

Look, as to "conspiracy theories" I agree with you. I've acknowledged that there could be a simple technical explanation for it. However, the removal of the "Who are the Coaltion Members?" document, and the changing of the graphic that linked to it, cannot be anything but purposeful.

Radio Addresses still online back to 2001, (but a few of them on Education and another topic or two) removed from the same period is suspicious to say the least, and worth pointing out giving their other behavior. On the website, and the rest of the way their administraiton runs.

If we don't watchdog them, who will? (And thanks for watchdogging me, btw).

For the record, I believe documents issued by the White House, on paper, in the briefing room or on the website are indeed part of the "Historical Record".

Fri Oct 22 2004 9:12 AM

Jim Gilliam:

Type in "coalition members" into google.

First page is this one:

Fri Oct 22 2004 9:22 AM

Brad Friedman:

Jim, all due respect, but that list is from March 2003, and was either the one (or like the one) that they've removed from the ACTIVELY UPDATED special report on "Renewal in Iraq". The links to the similar document (or that one) on "The Coaltion" page of that report is just gone.

We're in the middle of a Presidential Election, and the V.P. just slammed his opponent for NOT including Iraqi deaths as part of the coaltion. That is a TOP point in this campaign (America taking 90% of the casualties). To so cynically attempt to turn it against Edwards that way, then to hide the details on the White House website -- specifically and purposely -- is abhorrent and should be pointed out. At the very least. I'm sorry to see that you don't *seem* to agree with that.

Fri Oct 22 2004 10:22 AM

Jim Gilliam:

You're making a political argument -- it should be pointed out how the White House is trying to spin things against its political opponents. That's absolutely valid. The positioning of promo type links on the White House site is a valid way of highlighting what they're doing.

But, I'm not trying to make a political point. I'm making a technical argument that people should be allowed to change their sites around, promo different things, and remove old content that they don't have space for anymore.

For example, CNN doesn't keep old video footage for very long (a couple years, maybe), MSNBC deletes them even faster, and Yahoo nixes wire stories after a few months. This is common.

The idea that the White House wouldn't want to promo something damaging to them is not exactly shocking or unexpected. Every Senator and Congressman has a government funded website where they chose to highlight whatever they want to highlight.

Fri Oct 22 2004 11:39 AM

Brad Friedman:

Jim, I'm sure you understand that we're on the same side here in general. And I understand (and appreciate) you're trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.

But you're giving them far too much of it. Here's a video (one they *should* have taken down, btw, watch the first 20 seconds and you'll see why!) from Jan 1, 2002:

As well, our story on their removal of their "Coalition List" has just gotten picked up by AFP:

It's NEWS.

If they're removing stuff because "they don't have room for it anymore" why does some stuff from 4 years ago exist, but some stuff from 2 weeks ago doesn't?

As to your point of the White House being able to do anything they want with their site, I believe you are only partially correct. Material -- even Email on White House computers! -- belongs to the people. They can, of course, do what they want with it, but changing/hiding/deleting material, especially in the last 30-60 days of a campaign for political purposes is questionable at best, and illegal at worst.

I'm trying to find some of the exact legal statutes on this as time and ability (and lack of Lexis/Nexis) allows.

Suffice to say, I appreciate your point, not everything has necessarily been taken down for political reasons, but CLEARLY some of it has and we are owed an explanation about it at the very least!

Fri Oct 22 2004 9:05 PM

Brad Friedman:

BTW, even you stated you're only 99% certain of that policy, and I've now supplied you with several pieces of evidence that go well back before 1 year.

The headline of your piece, and your assertion that "It's NOT TRUE" are clearly INCORRECT and could use an UPDATE to clarify your mistake.

Fri Oct 22 2004 9:07 PM

Jim Gilliam:

Okay. I give up. The email on the white house computers belonging to the "people" did me in. Good luck with the conspiracies dude.

Sat Oct 23 2004 12:47 AM

Brad Friedman:

Sorry, dude. You may note that I have specifically not reported on speculative conspiracy stuff like the "Bush hump" issue on my Blog. If you want to ignore the *evidence* amassed that the WH is using their site for political purposes during the final days of a campaign, you are free to proceed at your own risk of missing the obvious.

Sun Oct 24 2004 2:09 PM

Jim Gilliam:

"WH is using their site for political purposes during the final days of a campaign"

DUH! Hello!? They've used the site for political purposes since day one! Do you not understand what the purpose of is? It's to distribute the talking points, speeches, and what not of the President and his staff. Nearly every word that comes out of their mouths is political.

Sun Oct 24 2004 9:24 PM

Right Wing Robby:

When Brad talks it reminds me of the X-files.

Mon Oct 25 2004 10:07 AM

Brad Friedman:

Right. But that's what is for. The White House website - according to the Presidential Records Act - contains "historical materials" and cannot be changed and/or deleted without approval from the National Archives. That would be a criminal violation that the Clinton Administration's website managers took great pains to avoid.
See this article for more info on that particular part of this story.

Beyond that, the Washington Post has picked up this story in two different articles today. So I guess we now have to add them to the X-Files conspirators as well.

That sort of "conspiracy theory" dismissal works very well for those only interested in protecting the White House at this point.

Mon Oct 25 2004 1:36 PM

Jim Gilliam:

So where is all the information from the Clinton presidency on the website?

Mon Oct 25 2004 2:09 PM

Right Wing Robby:

I went to the website and used the search function. I typed in the word "impeachment." I used the filters that said 'any topic and subject.'

Since Clinton’s impeachment was very historical and very unusual I figured I would be overwhelmed with links to click on. Funny, I came up links regarding Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) and a few other unrelated links. But to my surprise, no Bill Clinton.

I’m confused Brad? Whats gives?

Mon Oct 25 2004 3:10 PM

Brad Friedman:

Jim - As the "Presidential Records Act" dictates, removal or deletion of that material must be cleared with the National Archives.

Thus, the five different versions of the Clinton Website are found here at this National Archives site.

Not sure which site Robby is talking about. But presuming you mean, as far as I know, the WH may put anything they like on there. Once it is published (see the link to the National Archives above) it becomes public property and a "historical document".

If, for whatever reason the WH decides not to cover the Clinton Impeachment, I guess that's up to them.

If they covered it though, and then removed or changed it without consent of the National Archives somehow, that would be a concern and a possible violation of the "rule of law". You remember that, dontcha Right Wing Robby?

Mon Oct 25 2004 7:08 PM

Right Wing Robby:

I see. So if President "choose not to cover it", your fine with that? That’s seems to me like he was using the website for political reasons and I bet he "took pains" to make sure that happened or didn’t. So then what is and isn’t considered historical is up to the current administration? Well, you seem fine with that which surprises me since you seem so concerned over historical documents being used politically.

Oh wait, maybe its not historical documents you care about, but are simply looking for another way to attack the President. You’re not fighting over principals, nor are you backing up any true concern for historical documents.

Good luck on your ground breaking story, Brad. Sounds like a real hot issue.

Tue Oct 26 2004 8:35 AM

Brad Friedman:

Sorry, Right Wing Robby, to hear that you're no longer concerned with the rule of law.

Not sure what's so difficult to understand about the Presidential Records Act, described by the National Archives as:

Presidential records are defined as:
Documentary materials, or an reasonably segregable portion thereof, created or received by the President, his immediate staff, or a unit or individual or the Executive Office of the President whose function is to advise and assist the President, in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have and effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President [44 U.S.C. ß 2201(2)].

These records can be in a variety of media, including paper, audiovisual, and electronic.

When a President creates such a record, it becomes "public property" and part of "the historic record".

I'm sorry that it's not as important as a President getting a blow-job, but it's the LAW nonetheless.

Don't really care how much "ground breaking" there is there. Though I'm happy to report that WaPo found it notable enough to cover it in two different articles yesterday. FWIW.

Give my best to your ostrich friends, Right-Wing!

Wed Oct 27 2004 12:21 AM

Right Wing Robby:

Sure thing Brad, say hi to Agent Scully for me.

Wed Oct 27 2004 6:44 AM

Brad Friedman:

Pressure forces White House to restore all Audio/Video to their Website!
(But plenty -- including "List of Coalition Members" -- is still MIA!)

Details here!

So much for that policy they lied to you about, Jim!

Fri Oct 29 2004 5:59 PM

Brad Friedman: HTML allowed, I guess. Try that again:

Details Here:

Okay...that's better :-)

Fri Oct 29 2004 7:59 PM

Jim Gilliam:

Fantastic. That's awesome. Will definitely make my life easier getting that Makes my life so much easier.


And they didn't lie to me about any policy dumbass, they just changed the policy because you were being an asshole.

But thanks.

Fri Oct 29 2004 9:28 PM

Brad Friedman:

Happy to be asshole on the side of history anytime. But yes, given that there was loads of media much older than a year, all the way back to 2001, I'd have to say they were lying to ya.

But that's just me, dipshit ;-)

Sat Oct 30 2004 12:51 PM

Jim Gilliam:

Sigh... For the record. I never asked the Bush administration, staff or anyone why old media wasn't there back when I was looking for it in the summer of 2003. I did email to the main webmaster for an old file to be put up, and never received a response -- not exactly surprising since there are probably 10,000 emails a day to that thing. So I then contacted the white house press office by phone and they were very helpful in providing -- for free -- any video I asked for.

I just assumed -- because it was the most logical explanation since the vast majority of old content was missing, and the vast majority of new content was fine -- that it was their policy.

Sun Oct 31 2004 4:10 AM

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