Why Robert Luskin’s Explanation for “Lost” Rove Email Is Total Bullshit

Brian Zick

As noted previously, Rove's Lawyer Robert "Gold Bars" Luskin claimed that "Any e-mails Rove deleted were the type of routine deletions people make to keep their inboxes orderly." Unfortunately for Luskin and his client, "routine deletions" from email software simply don't erase data from servers. It takes rather a more deliberately pointed effort to do that. Robert Boyd for McClatchy explains the fallacy of Luskin's claim: If Karl Rove or other White House staffers tried to delete sensitive e-mails from their computers, experts said, investigators usually could recover all or most of them. Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, denied Friday that his client, President Bush's top political adviser, intentionally deleted his e-mails. He said Rove thought they were being stored on other machines as well as on his own. Deleting a document or e-mail doesn't remove the file from a computer's hard drive or a backup server. The only thing that's erased is the address - known as a "pointer" - indicating where the file is stored. It's like "removing an index card in a library," said Robert Guinaugh, a senior partner at CyberControls LLC, a data forensic-support company in Barrington, Ill. "You take the card out, but the book is still on the shelf." Similarly, the bits and bytes - the 0's and 1's of computer language - remain on the computer's hard disk until they're overwritten by another file. Portions of the file also are scattered in various locations on the disk, so some parts may not be overwritten for years, if ever. This is a random process directed by the machine's operating system, over which the user has no control. "People think they can delete e-mails, but that's not always the case," Guinaugh said. "Two years from now I could still find a file I deleted today." Rob Pegaro for WaPo also has a report headlined 'Delete' Doesn't Mean 'Disappear': You can try specialized software that can overwrite a deleted file to prevent later retrieval -- for example, the Eraser program for Windows and Mac OS X's "Secure Empty Trash" option -- but those products may not work inside an e-mail program's database. E-mail also leaves a long trail as it hops from computer to computer across the Internet. Most of the copies aren't kept, but at the receiving end, at least two can stick around: one on the mail server that delivers new messages to each user's computer, the other on the user's own machine. So even if both the sender and recipient strive to make a message disappear, "data forensics" companies can dig it up. So either the email data still resides on the servers - in which case the Bush administration lied and the emails aren't really "lost" at all, so they can in fact be retrieved and turned over to congressional investigators - or someone purposefully eliminated the data from the server hard drives, in what could well be a case of tampering with evidence to obstruct justice.

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