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File, Associated Press
FILE - In this 1973 file photo, Rose Mary Woods, President Richard Nixon's secretary at her White House desk, demonstrates the "Rose Mary Stretch" which could have resulted in the erasure of part of the Watergate tapes. In the never-ending quest to preserve the government's history, there have been plenty of weapons of mass destruction. Before there were “delete” keys on computers, there were paper shredders, "erase" buttons on tape recorders and trash cans. The current dustup over access to Hillary Rodham Clinton's emails as secretary of state is causing historians and government record-keepers alike to take stock of what may be a best-of-times, worst-of-times moment for saving government records.

WASHINGTON — The focus on Hillary Rodham Clinton's email practices as secretary of state is causing historians and government record-keepers to take stock of an imperfect system for preserving the government's history.

In this age of email, texting, Twitter and beyond, there are more records than ever on the workings of government.

But it's also easy to make these records disappear — and challenging to find a manageable way to capture what's significant.

Here's how Paul Wester, chief records officer for the government, puts it: "The situation is not as good as we would like it to be," he says — particularly during the transition from paper to electronic records.

He says the National Archives was surprised to learn Clinton used only a personal email account and server while secretary of state.