WASHINGTON (AP) _ Presidential aides call it a ``disconnect.'' Congressional Republicans call it a cover-up. Both sides in the White House e-mail controversy agree on one thing: It's a mess.

Former White House counsel Charles Ruff testifies today to the House Government Reform Committee about why hundreds of thousands of White House e-mails were never searched to see if some should have been turned over to investigators on Capitol Hill, prosecutor Ken Starr's office and the Justice Department.

In testimony a month ago, White House counsel Beth Nolan said ``there is absolutely no question there was a disconnect'' between White House computer experts and lawyers.

The lawyers knew of a computer ``glitch'' in 1998 but didn't realize huge amounts of e-mail had never been placed in searchable archives, said Nolan.

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., offered an alternate explanation for the White House's failure to act when the e-mail problem was discovered nearly two years ago in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky investigation.

``The White House obstructed justice and we are just trying to see who did it,'' Shays told a hearing Wednesday of the House committee.

Mark Lindsay, the White House aide who informed Ruff of the problem, also was to testify today.

In a March 23 appearance before the committee chaired by Rep. Dan Burton, Lindsay said he remembered telling Ruff about the problem in June 1998, but doesn't recall details of their conversation.

At Wednesday's hearing, Burton, R-Ind., suggested the White House didn't ask Congress last year for money to create an archiving system for the old e-mail because presidential aides were trying to conceal the problem from Congress.

``We did not ask for funds'' to correct the e-mail problem because ``our singular purpose was Y2K,'' testified Michael Lyle, director of the White House Office of Administration, referring to the computer changeover to the year 2000.

Career White House computer specialist Karl Heissner drafted a talking point on the e-mail problem for congressional appropriators, but the talking point was deleted from the finished product that Lindsay took with him to Capitol Hill.

When another problem with the archiving system cropped up a year ago, Lyle said, ``Lindsay explained to me we needed to notify the counsel's office ... because the counsel's office was responsible for subpoenas.'' But Lyle said he didn't know there was any actual problem of not complying with subpoenas.