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White House Ordered to Preserve All Email 259

Posted by Zonk
from the IT-at-that-place-just-got-harder dept.
Verunks writes "A federal judge Monday ordered the White House to preserve copies of all its e-mails in response to two lawsuits that seek to determine whether e-mails have been destroyed in violation of federal law. The issue surfaced in the leak probe of administration officials who disclosed Valerie Plame's CIA identity. ' The Federal Records Act details strict standards prohibiting the destruction of government documents including electronic messages, unless first approved by the archivist of the United States. Justice Department lawyers had urged the courts to accept a proposed White House declaration promising to preserve all backup tapes. The judge's order "should stop any future destruction of e-mails, but the White House stopped archiving its e-mail in 2003 and we don't know if some backup tapes for those e-mails were already taped over before we went to court. It's a mystery," said Meredith Fuchs, a lawyer for the National Security Archive.'"
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White House Ordered to Preserve All Email

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  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:45AM (#21335217) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone know what tech the White House has? It would seem like the storage requirements for storing every single e-mail sent in and out of the White House would be huge.
  • by RandoX (828285) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:52AM (#21335275)
    A company I worked for was forbidden to keep emails longer than 60 days. Lawsuit evidence discovery was the actual reason they gave. At least they were honest about that... I chose to leave there because of ethical disagreements I had.
  • Another question. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iknownuttin (1099999) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:58AM (#21335319)
    It would seem like the storage requirements for storing every single e-mail sent in and out of the White House would be huge.

    First, how do yo prove that emails were deleted? And if you can prove it, how do you prove that they weren't deleted maliciously?

    Second, I once asked a member of the Bar here in GA (a lawyer) about deleting emails and the legal ramifications. He said that as long as I have a company policy of deleting them after X amount of time, then nobody could claim that I was deleting them for malicious or fraudulent reasons. Because, a lot of folks, when they get sued, will delete all of their emails right before discovery. Then the judge rules something that I can't remember, but basically you, the email deleter, gets into trouble and possibly loses the case.
    As a smart ass, I said that my policy is to delete them as soon as I get them. That's OK, actually. I just have to live with trying remember what was in the email. Or print them - then that's yet more problems.

  • by DrLang21 (900992) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:05AM (#21335379)
    There is a distinction between personal correspondence and business correspondence. My e-mails sent from my e-mail address given to me by my employer are in no way private. Certain individuals within this company can read them at any time. My personal e-mails sent from my personal e-mail address are private (or so we like to think). Now it's not a far stretch from here to say that I should not be sending personal e-mails from my work address or work related e-mails from my private address. I don't see why our government shouldn't be held to the same industry standard.
  • by Metzli (184903) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:09AM (#21335411)
    Not trying to trivialize too much, but it's the same requirements that businesses have to meet due to e-discovery rules. If they can do it, one would think the White House could.
  • by kennedy (18142) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:09AM (#21335413) Homepage
    I do not know what technology the White House uses, but i work for a company that offers an email archiving service for just this sort of thing. Our customer base is mostly lawyers, hospitals, and people who deal with stocks and trading. Generally this service is used to stem insider trading, information leaking and to be ready in case your buisness is served with papers requiring you to produce emails from a specific period of time.

    With our system, all email end up on a WORM device (see permabit) so we can assure all parties the data has not been tampered with.

    Now - the interesting part - the amount of disk space needed can vary based on the customer's retention policy - which is general dictated by various federal standards (SAS70, etc), so really, you don't need an insane amount of disk space. Generally we see customers needing retention policies of 3 or 7 years. Anyway - there's no real hard and fast way to estimate how much space the white house would need (its based on number of mailboxes, number of messages per day, and size of messages) - but one of my larger customers, about 4 years worth of uncompressed data added up to about 300gigs. With the size of NAS and SAN devices today, it's quite feasible they could use a pair of 2TB disk arrays replicating to each other and probably be ok.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:15AM (#21335463)
    This isn't Georgy's personal emails home. These are emails guaranteed to be public because they originated at the hands of a government agent. All things a government agent does -unless it has special permissions to be secret- needs to be available to all those who pay for such services. This is law.

    The idea that we can't or shouldn't be able to get at this information is absurd.

    The funny part of all this is that most of the administration uses GOP-provided email services to protect themselves from such requests anyway - even though the legality of this is extremely questionable.
  • by pev (2186) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:30AM (#21335635) Homepage
    As with pretty much every other employment around the world, Bush should expect his work related email (i.e. White House) to be monitored and archived by his employers and as such shouldn't have expectations of privacy. If he want's to write personal emails to his daughters that he'd rather not be read by his employers he should have personal email as everyone else does, no?

    ~Pev
  • by RandoX (828285) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:31AM (#21335657)
    The reasoning was that if we were sued and then deleted our emails, we were obstructing justice. If it's our policy to delete emails, then we aren't treating the evidence differently than any of the other emails.
  • by db32 (862117) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:33AM (#21335677) Journal
    Uhm he does expect the government email to get monitored. Hence the two main problems here. They quit archiving them, and they got in trouble for using outside email to conduct their shenanagins so that they wouldn't get burned by the government archiving and monitoring.
  • by E++99 (880734) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:37AM (#21335731) Homepage
    By what authority can the courts order the executive branch to not delete any emails? In Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that it did not have, and under the Constitution could not be given, the power to issue such orders to the executive branch.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:38PM (#21337421) Homepage
    What's the point of this lawsuit anyway. If there's a conviction, then there'll be a pardon shortly after. No one's going to get punished, so there's no reason to stop breaking the law.

    Getting the facts out into the open. Yes it would be nice if lawbreakers were punished for breaking the law but as we've seen sometimes that's practically impossible. In lieu of that, we can look for a conviction in the court of public opinion, a decision no pardon can reverse -- see Nixon. Or Scooter Libby for that matter. Scooter's conviction was damaging to the administration and the Republican party. If we can score even more solid dirt on someone as high or higher up than Scooter was, that would be even more damaging.

    That's a reason for them to stop breaking the law -- getting people to believe that these are lawbreakers and can't be trusted in office. Irreparable damage to political careers may not be as satisfying as jail time, but it is something. The fear of losing elections should help keep the rest of them in line. For a while anyway. I know how this goes. But if you don't do anything, just throw up your hands and say there's no point, then you've done worse than a token gesture of dissatisfaction, you've given tacit permission.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:38PM (#21338373) Homepage

    Does anyone know what tech the White House has? It would seem like the storage requirements for storing every single e-mail sent in and out of the White House would be huge.

    Well, given the nature of the decisions which are coming out of the White House ... who cares?

    This stuff is supposed to be historical record; I thought they were already obligated to keep all of this stuff (except for that whole sending through Republican Party addresses debacle). The White House has helicopters, airplanes, fleets of limousines, chase cars, private chefs, security personnel, communications officers, Stewards, housekeepers, and what have you.

    If the official correspondence of the head of state isn't worth keeping, then, WTF is worth keeping?? A tremendous amount of resources go into keeping the President doing his work and plugged in. Surely to fsck the technical issues of archiving this shit is a surmountable problem.

    If they're not archiving it now, it's because someone decided to stop the audit trail, not because the resources weren't there.

    Cheers
  • Re:Way too late (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jackpot777 (1159971) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:01PM (#21338747)
    Just wanted to point out something. Disclaimer: I have voted for Tony Blair, and have never voted Conservative Party.

    The parent of my answer started in this thread with dismissiveness. I've seen it used before by many others as a tactic to downplay the gravity of a situation they don't wish people to openly discuss, especially when it comes to politics (and in this case, American politics). It gets marked as funny, fair enough. But +3? Really?

    The post I specifically answered mentioned one historically inaccurate sleight concerning Slick Willy Clinton in that he didn't go after OBL. This post, a few minutes ago, was at +3. I showed, with no error, he did. I countered with two links. Both from the same week in 1998. One showing Clinton going after OBL, the second one showing the lack of support the American C-in-C received from 'across the aisle', as they'd say in Washington.

    This was marked down one point before being marked +1 for informative.

    Disagreeing with me politically? Makes the world go around. But seriously: if you think that fellow geeks, or history, or myself, will think the facts are anything other than the facts because I get marked down by a few people with a conservative American political agenda on Slashdot? Good luck with that. How's that working for you in Iraq and possibly Iran?

    Hell, I'd accept a Flamebait for this clarification as justification of just how much many Americans (and some are in this forum) will dismiss cited facts because of the cognitive dissonance [wikipedia.org] it sets up in their minds, if it strokes their poor delicate and shattered egos. It's not as though that mental process is particularly complex [chowk.com].
  • Re:Check with AT&T? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by patternmatch (951637) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:18PM (#21339003)

    If you think it cares which letter, D or R, appears on your driver's license - Well, enjoy your false sense of security while it lasts.

    Since when is your party affiliation listed on your driver's license? Mine certainly isn't.

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