There’s a lot of work going on inside the Bush Administration before it scoots out of office in less than a week, records wise. But this morning a federal judge has just added one more item to the list: handing over all personal digitital devices—thumb cards, CDs, DVDs, personal computers, etc.—that might contain some of the 5 million emails that are estimated to have gone missing after 2003 from the White House.

“No doubt the White House is going into a tizzy and freaking out,” says Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a research organization based at George Washington University, which won the victory.

For now, the Archive has a brief press release up on the ruling, and a helpful timeline to understanding the long saga of the missing messages. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but the ruling, if it nets emails, could shed light on some of the most contentious episodes of the past administration, including the U.S. Attorney firing scandal.

“I’m just hoping it’s not too late,” says Blanton. “It could be closing the barn door after the horse is out.”

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.