Looks like I can back off a bit, for the moment, on my criticism of the print media (if not the broadcast media) as The Washington Post today has finally picked up the "White House Website Scrub" story in two different pieces. (Unlike the wire report on AFP/Yahoo, both WaPo stories were kind enough to give credit to yours truly for breaking the story.)
Since Froomkin's column does not get archived on the WaPo site (I don't think) and since a few minor corrections should be made to his report, I'll run it here in it's entirety:
Dan Froomkin - Monday, Oct 25, 2004; 12:22 PM
The Washinton Post
Missing from the Web
Is the White House scrubbing its Web site?
Helen Dewar and Brian Faler write in The Washington Post about the mystery of the disappearing Coalition of the Willing --- and more.
"Blogger Brad Friedman, who noticed the disappearance, believes this is part of a widespread 'scrubbing' of documents on the government site. Gone are links to the audio and video of President Bush's statement that 'I'm not that concerned' about Osama bin Laden, a Q&A when Bush said 'misunderestimate' and Bush's acknowledgment that his decision making on stem cell policy was 'unusually deliberative for my administration.'
"Jimmy Orr, who handles the content for the White House site, said nothing nefarious was intended. 'We have some 80,000 pages and 3,000 video and audio links,' he said. 'When we republish pages and move files, some links are bound to go down, and there are bound to be dead pages.' "
For the record, the March 2001 press conference where Bush first said "misunderestimate" is in fact on the site; the transcript just says "mis-understimate" instead. Using Google, I found another version of the coalition list on the Web servers, for those of you who are curious. And the July 2001 press conference where Bush spoke about his unusual deliberation is in fact also on line. But the other stuff is indeed missing.
Indeed, as Froomkin reports, the audio from the "March 2002 press conference" where Bush used "misunderestimate" is now back online. It was not there when we originally reported that part of the story a few days ago. But as the other WaPo piece on this today from Dewar and Faler report, James Orr, head of content for the White House website claims that staffers are now "'clicking on every single audio and video link on our site' to make sure they work. So that could be one of the pages where they've now restored the previously missing audio.
In regards to the other version of the coalition list Froomkin was able to find by searching Google, as we reported old versions of the coalition list could be found via searching, but that the latest coalition list, the version linked to their actively updated "RENEWAL IN IRAQ: the Coalition" special report was expressly removed from that report just after Dick Cheney blasted John Edwards in the Veep Debate for being "dead wrong" for not counting Iraqi casualties as part of the coalition. That issue is explained, with before and after screenshots here.
Finally, the transcript for the "July 2001 press conference" where Bush spoke about being "unusually deliberative for my administration" on Stem Cell research was always available online, as my report on that indicated at the time. It was only the Audio and Video from the press conference that was not --- and is still not, as of this post --- available online. The links to them are there, but the content is unavailable.
Nonetheless, those are minor issues and I'm glad to see the media picking up on this story at all. I hope they will also look into the issues of possible criminal violations by the White House of the Presidential Records Act that I reported on last night.
Most importantly, I hope the media keep pressing the White House on all of this since their ridiculous cover story (now given by Orr to both AFP and WaPo) has been pretty pathetic. As the Dewar and Faler story reported in it's final graf...
So Orr is suggesting here that it takes over a month to remove a single line of text from an HTML web page?! Yet they were able to both delete the original page --- a list which never contained the country of Iraq, as Cheney suggested --- and remove the graphic link to that list from their special report on Iraq just a day or two after we first reported on it? But they can't seem to provide a list of coaltion countries during a time of war and in the middle of a Presidential campaign?
If you believe that, you probably also believe that "freedom is on the march" in Falluja.
These guys are incredible, and will say anything to cover their asses for what is clearly a cynical and corrupt, and likely illegal (remember that "rule of law" that used to matter?) use of the historical record on the publically funded White House website. Sadly, it's all merely demonstrative of the way everything in this administration seems to be handled.