Committee Hears Testimony on White House E-Mails

July 7, 2008 - 7:25 PM

( - Northrop Grumman employees who worked under a computer contract at the White House today told a House Committee they were warned - one used the word "threatened" -- to keep quiet about their discovery of a computer glitch that caused thousands of White House e-mails to be left out of a computer search.

The White House had conducted the search to comply with various federal subpoenas, and until the Northrop Grumman workers discovered the computer glitch, the White House staffers didn't realize that thousands of possibly relevant documents had been left out of that search.

It's what those White House staffers did after they learned about the glitch that the Committee is investigating.

The Northrop Grumman employees are currently testifying before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana).

In his opening statement before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Robert Haas, one of the Northrop Grumman contract workers, testified about his discovery of the e-mail problem, which he called "Mail-2."

Haas said he was called into a meeting, attended by two White House staffers - Laura Crabtree and Mark Lindsey, the latter attending the meeting via a conference call.

"Mr. Lindsey told us that the discovery of the Mail-2 problem was to be treated as top secret," Haas said. "Mr. Lindsey specifically told us not to talk to Steve Hawkins, the project manager for Northrop Grumman and our ultimate supervisor on site."

Haas told the committee that "in a somewhat flippant way," Haas told the Committee he asked what would happen to him if he did tell his wife about his discovery of the "unretrieved" e-mails. "Miss Crabtree responded that there would be a jail cell with my name on it," Haas testified.

Haas told the Committee he got the impression that "they were very serious about their warnings."

Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana) told the Northrop Grumman workers, "the facts we want are these: When did you find out that there was a [computer] glitch? As I understand it, it was 1996." And the second area of interest, said Burton: "What happened at that meeting with Miss Crabtree and Mr. Lindsey on the phone?"

The Committee hearing began around 10:30 Thursday morning and it is expected to continue throughout the day.