First, apologies for taking a blogging sabbatical while in London, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Or Jill a dull girl. Business in London frequently involves a splendid pub lunch and always a pint of ale. We really need to import that tradition. More on “forensic computing” in London soon, but for now I wanted to make sure to update the circus over the missing White House e-mails.
Judge John Facciola, polite but firm, has noted the contradictory statements by White House officials explaining the government’s archiving efforts. On April 24th, he issued an order directing the administration to collect and preserve all e-mails in .pst files for individuals employed at the White House between March 2003 and October 2005. Millions of e-mails appear to be missing from this period, which covers the start of the Iraq war, the Valerie Plame incident and the White House’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
The White House has admitted that there are a lot of e-mails missing but says the e-mails are on back-up tapes and drives that haven’t yet been found. Hmmm. Judge Facciola also recommended that the preservation order be extended to data on flash drives and other portable media. If the White House is to be believed, there is no monitoring or tracking of any of these devices – everything is left up to user discretion (anyone familiar with IT security is no doubt cringing at this folly). He further ordered that the White House advise the court as to whether all backup tapes created between 2003-1005 have been preserved and to specify any dates for which no backups exist. Though the opinion is polite, the court’s frustration with the government failure to be wholly forthcoming and specific is clear.
Given the blatant contradictions (we overwrote backup tapes/no, no, of course we didn’t do that), the real status of the missing e-mails is clear as mud. In the private sector, the entire IT staff would be pink-slipped if they couldn’t identify (and quickly) the status of the backups. How often confusion is convenient.
The court’s order may be found at http://www.citizensforethics.org/files/Document%2067%20(4-24-08)_0.pdf
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 703-359-0700