A federal judge held the administration in civil contempt Friday and threatened heavy daily fines because officials failed to draw up guidelines to preserve millions of computer documents from the Bush White House.
U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey gave the Justice Department until June 21 to put new guidelines into place for preservation of the computer tapes and restoring damaged backup tapes.
Thereafter, Richey said, he will impose daily fines of $50,000 the first week and double them each week thereafter -- $100,000 a day the second week and $200,000 a day in the third week.
The fines would be paid by the executive branch into a special court fund and will not go to the plaintiffs, Public Citizen and the National Security Archives. They had alleged that the government violated the Federal Records Act.
At issue are 5,795 White House computer reel tapes and 150 mainframe hard drives. Bush had wanted to erase or destroy all of the tapes and hard drives before leaving office once any federal records they contained had been printed on paper.