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White House Email Follies 205

Posted by kdawson
from the exchanging-notes dept.
Presto Vivace forwards a link detailing a recent House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the White House missing emails mess. David Gewirtz's report, carried in OutlookPower and DominoPower (in 6 parts, keep clicking), makes for scary reading. "If, in fact, the bulk of the White House email records are now stored in bundles of rotting PST files, all at or above their maximum safe load-level, that ain't good in a very big way... I object to using the inaccurate and inflated claim of excessive cost as a reason to avoid compliance with the Presidential Records Act."
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White House Email Follies

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  • What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@pa3.14legray.net minus pi> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:43PM (#22688466) Homepage Journal

    all at or above their maximum safe load-level
    What exactly is the safe load level for a PST file? If you're talking about stuff that's not reliably archived, the answer is "there isn't one." I recall reading a story a while back about a debacle wherein several thousand emails were "inadvertently" deleted... what the hell is so hard about implementing a sane backup policy? It's email, not terabytes of images or anything.
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cridanb (687817) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:56PM (#22688546)
      the safe load level of a pst is around 2gb , after that it is subject to corruption
      as to the amount of data , email systems are the largest systems on earth these days encompassing tens of terabytes of data in their live stores and tens of petabytes on tape

      and yes they should have an archiving system not just doing tape back up tape

      p.S if they used an enterprise email system like lotus domino this would not be a problem after all thats what the CIA uses
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        the safe load level of a pst is around 2gb , after that it is subject to corruption

        Depends. Starting with outlook 2003, there is a new format of .pst file which doesn't have size limits. Prior to that, 2 gig was the limit.

        and yes they should have an archiving system not just doing tape back up tape

        Well, that depends if you want your email to be subpoenaed/leaked or not! G.W. Bush is on the record saying he deliberately doesn't use email for that reason.

        p.S if they used an enterprise email system like lotus
      • Format decides the maximum size of a PST.
      • Outlook (pre-2003) PST files had a hard-limit of 2GB beyond which they would simply refuse to grow. Microsoft recommends against letting your PSTs grow much over 1GB (TFA says 1.6GB). This is common knowledge in the IS dept where I work. The most common type of restoral we do is PST files, by the way. They really do corrupt easily when large. I don't know much about the format other than fragmentation is an issue (when you constantly add and delete messages from a PST). My guess is, as you get close to the
        • We switched to Outlook 2003 only recently. I can't tell you yet whether or not the new PST format is any more reliable. The only improvements I know of offhand are UTF encoding and removal of the 2GB limit.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by rtb61 (674572)
          Well at least there is that interesting and different reasoning for using and recommending M$ exchange and the pst file format.

          Have emails that you don't want any more, regulatory authorities breathing down your neck, keeping embarrassing emails becoming a worry, then switch to M$ exchange, we guarantee to 'legally' corrupt and destroy all those pesky records of your corruption, not one incriminating email shall survive.

          Based upon the latest M$ Vista email shenanigans, that exchange pst excuse doesn't s

          • PST is an outlook file format. Exchange does NOT store messages in PST format. PST files are used for local mail archives only.

            They need a "+1 wrong, but slams M$, so who gives a fuck?" moderation option.
            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by mvdwege (243851)

              And what is the default client to access Exchange? And the major reason why places deploy Exchange? Hint: it is not because it is a superior mail server.

              We should get a "-1, Missing the point" moderation.

              Mart
      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by aeschenkarnos (517917) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @08:52PM (#22689872)
        after that it is subject to corruption

        This is the Bush Administration. It started subject to corruption.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vertinox (846076) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:06PM (#22688614)
      What exactly is the safe load level for a PST file?

      About 1.9 GB on an older PST file and anymore will crap out.

      Outlook 2003 and greater will allow 20gb files, but they become horrendously slow after 5 to 10 gb.

      And yes.. People will store gigabytes of email on an exchange server... Usually when they are emailing large videos, photoshop files, or do Desktop publishing work. Though I wonder what the Whitehouse doing to take up that much space.

      Certainaly it wasn't powerpoints on intelligence reports.
      • Re:What? (Score:4, Funny)

        by NilObject (522433) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:40PM (#22689380) Homepage

        Certainaly it wasn't powerpoints on intelligence reports.


        Based the general stream of diarrhea coming from the White House (especially this past week), I'll wager $500 that it's torture/bondage porn.
      • Though I wonder what the Whitehouse doing to take up that much space.
        Bush: Hey, Dick, check out this video clip Rummy emailed me!
      • Email Needs Rethink (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tablizer (95088)
        And yes.. People will store gigabytes of email on an exchange server... Usually when they are emailing large videos, photoshop files, or do Desktop publishing work. Though I wonder what the Whitehouse doing to take up that much space.

        Most email systems are poorly factored information because they duplicate a message for every last reader of a given message. It would save a lot of space and traffic if a given attachment or message was stored in one and only one place rather than replicated en-mass.

        Of cours
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Blackknight (25168)
          Exchange server already does this, mail is pretty much stored in a database format.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Tablizer (95088)
            Exchange server already does this, mail is pretty much stored in a database format

            Only while its on the server. Most sites only allow about two month's worth, at which point the user must delete it or save it to a "personal folder".
                       
        • Most email systems are poorly factored information because they duplicate a message for every last reader of a given message.
          What you describe is called Single Instance Storage (SIS). Somewhat ironically -- given what the White House is apparently using -- Microsoft Exchange is one of the few email systems on the market which does this.
    • a) It's in the FA - about 1.6GB per PST file. Above that, you risk corruption of indexes, which makes reliable retrieval hard to impossible (not least because emails, like all of MS's file formats, get broken up into pieces and shoved where they fit)

      b) It is terabytes of email - about 10TB, actually. (5000 archives @ 2GB each). Email doesn't have to be small.
    • Outlook storage (Score:5, Informative)

      by DragonHawk (21256) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:58PM (#22690444) Homepage Journal

      What exactly is the safe load level for a PST file?
      There's been lots of replies to this, but I figured I'd organize a coherent and correct one.

      Outlook has PST (Personal Store) and OST (Offline Store) files. PSTs are basically just local mail folder collections. OSTs are used to maintain local replicates of Exchange server mailboxes (so you can still use your email even if you're on the road). In Outlook 2003 "Cached Mode", Outlook also uses OSTs even when connected to the Exchange server, and synchronizes to the server in the background.

      http://support.microsoft.com/kb/208480 [microsoft.com]

      PST and OST files -- I'll call them "Outlook stores" -- are both built around the same file format. There are two variants. The original format, which Microsoft sometimes called "ANSI", is limited to 2 Gi byte total size, and 64 Ki items per table. The table limit affects the number of items you can have in a folder, as well as the total number of folders you can have in a PST. (Outlook stores from Outlook 97 and earlier also had a table limit of 16 Ki items, but could be auto-upgraded in place to large tables in newer Outlook versions.)

      http://support.microsoft.com/kb/197430 [microsoft.com]

      These store limits affected OST and PST alike, so even if you had a nice, capable Exchange server, you could still encounter problems with Outlook store limits.

      http://support.microsoft.com/kb/288283 [microsoft.com]

      With Outlook 2003, Microsoft introduced a new Outlook store format. It's sometimes called the "Unicode" format. I'm aware of no documented limits on the file format. I'm sure there are some, but Microsoft doesn't document them. Microsoft didn't document the ANSI PST limits until long after they started causing data loss, either.

      http://support.microsoft.com/kb/830336 [microsoft.com]

      In versions of Outlook prior to 2002, if you exceeded the store format limits, Outlook would give no immediate indication. The file would keep getting bigger, as the software didn't have checks for the limits. But it would corrupting things, too. In short, silently loosing data.

      Eventually, the Outlook store would get so damaged it would stop working. Microsoft provided a utility to truncate the file to 2 GiB to make it work again, loosing more data in the process.

      http://support.microsoft.com/kb/296088 [microsoft.com]

      In Outlook 2002, Microsoft added some code to check the limits of the store, and warn/stop if you reach them.

      http://support.microsoft.com/kb/305108 [microsoft.com]

      In Outlook 2003, along with the Unicode format, Microsoft added a parameter at which it would consider a Unicode store "full", even though the format can keep going. The stock limit is 20 GiB; you can increase it with a registry tweak.

      http://support.microsoft.com/kb/832925/ [microsoft.com]

      "ANSI PST" does not mean PST is a standard file format; that refers to the character sets/encodings the file uses.

      Exchange Server uses an entirely different on-disk storage format, called EDB. There are technical limits, but they're insanely huge (16 TiB per store, 5 stores per database group). Exchange starts to run out of hardware resources (memory, mainly) long before you hit the file size limits. There are license-based size limits in some versions/editions of Exchange. 16 GiB in 2000 Standard, and 75 GiB in 2000 Standard SP2.
  • Lost (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arigram (1202657) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:46PM (#22688490) Homepage
    They just need some excuse for "losing" dangerous email messages...
  • by call-me-kenneth (1249496) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:52PM (#22688532)
    Really, that's an accurate write-up - click past a couple of pages to get to the technical details. It'd be hilarious if it weren't so tragic.

    After all, it's not like there aren't answers to the question "how shall I archive my user's email for legal and regulatory purposes?" [google.com] (Disclaimer- I work for a player in that market, but we're not on the first page of results for that search. So I don't feel too bad. Oh, wait - )

  • by wkk2 (808881) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:57PM (#22688558)
    Given all the convenient archival problems, every executive branch email should be archived as a PDF and digitally signed and time stamped by a secure server with the private key in protected hardware. The archive needs to be outside of the executive branch.
    • by jlarocco (851450)

      Why convert to PDF?

    • by Entropius (188861)
      And I don't see why this would be hard. Perhaps I'm naive about IT challenges, but where I work nobody even thinks about archives and backups until they need them; there are just some perl scripts that run every night make sure all that stuff gets made.

      Do you really need anything other than anacron, scp, maybe a bit of perl, a RAID array or a tape drive, and some guy to buy new disks (or tapes, or whatever you're using) once in a while to make email backups?
    • by martin-boundary (547041) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @08:59PM (#22689914)
      No. PDF is bad. The correct format is MIME encoded RFC2822, one file per message, tarballed. It's the best way to keep the information for future readers. Any mail admin worth his pay can convert PST/OST to that format.

      You can sign the tarball if you like afterwards.

      • This is pretty much how our servers keep backups, just create a tar file of the domain's maildir every night and scp it to a remote server. Rdiff-backup is also nice, with that you can restore the mail account to almost any point in time since backups have started.
  • The real question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:59PM (#22688566) Journal
    is why are the dems allowing the White house off? They should be paying to have all the PST's restored. By now somebody has told them that the white house lied about the costs of the PST files. The need to go after them for perjery as well as getting the emails.

    What really bothers me is that not this white house makes nixon and reagan look like boy scouts, but that the dems PROMISED to go after them, and really has done nothing.
    • by Stanislav_J (947290) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:03PM (#22688596)

      What really bothers me is that not this white house makes nixon and reagan look like boy scouts, but that the dems PROMISED to go after them, and really has done nothing.

      Politicians making promises and then failing to keep them? I'm shocked....SHOCKED...

      • Re:The real question (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Adambomb (118938) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:52PM (#22688858) Journal
        And the captain-obvious-esk sentiment you and the rest of us all feel is EXACTLY the problem.

        Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn't mean a time won't come where its necessary to put re-election odds by the wayside and do whats right. The caveat we all despise being that such people do not seem to win elections beyond the small to mid-sized municipal level from what I've seen.

        I do not know of a better system overall myself, but this is definitely one of the biggest issues with democracy. Not only can doing whats right get you on your ends without any means (like say, doing nothing) but it can also be entirely undone shortly thereafter. Of course, I do not expect this to change unless we survive the next worldwide readjustment when we either can no longer maintain the food supply thats maintaining worldwide overpopulation, blow our selves the hell up, or simply forget that water isn't just for toilets.

        If the current level of strife in the world isn't enough to make people want to think for themselves to be able to navigate the sea of bullshit on all sides, i doubt anything will until we see massive imminent worldwide peril with projected massive die-offs within a generation. Then the question will be, will we survive it.
      • by Daimanta (1140543)
        Actually, you should be shocked. True, a politician is never able to fully implement his program(nature of democracy), but the scale of deceit is huge. I don't understand why people still believe in this deeply flawed system. If a democratic system doesn't do anything the people want, you should consider abolishing it right away.

        But here come the Churchill quotists: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

        I honestly seriously doubt this. T
    • by Colin Smith (2679)

      is why are the dems allowing the White house off?
      Because both sides have the same paymasters?

       
    • IANAAmerican, but surely this is a non-partisan issue of heedless and convenient law-breaking, not a squabble solved by fiery press releases from Democrat HQ.

      Please, USA, lock these criminals up already.
      • by Nimey (114278)
        Won't happen. The Decider has many powerful friends, and even among the Joe Lusers there are many who think he can do no wrong (except on immigration, funnily enough).
    • by terrymr (316118)
      That would no doubt require some kind of appropriation by congress which the president would no doubt veto. They can't use criminal sanctions because the president has ordered justice not to pursue actions against his buddies. Unless the dems have a super-majority in congress there isn't much they can do without the white house co-operating. Pretty much every bill that wasn't GOP originated has been vetoed since the dems took congress, well at least every one that tries to reign in the white house anyw
      • Congress has the POWER to ungag Sibel Edmunds. And yes, the majority (though not super majority) dems have the ability to do this. WHY HAVE THEY NOT?
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:59PM (#22688570) Homepage Journal
    Is anyone out there still thinking that this White House operates at all near the level of minimum performance required from people in its job?

    Anyone still think all this incompetence that always protects Bush and his team is some kind of accident?
    • by dpilot (134227) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:52PM (#22688860) Homepage Journal
      > operates at all near the level of minimum performance required

      We should be so lucky to see such a high standard.

      > Anyone still think all this incompetence that always protects Bush and his team is some kind of accident?

      I would rather. The alternative explanation is EVIL and probably treasonous.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jthill (303417)

      No, but a great many people have gone tribal: they like it that the President is willfully violating oath, honor, duty and law. It means the man at the top of the hierarchy they worship, and therefore the hierarchy itself, is above all, and they're part of that hierarchy. The only rules they have to follow are what Big Men say.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        In 10 months it'll be a different "big man". That kind of king worship is exactly what this country is designed to thwart.
    • by jo42 (227475)
      Realize that the Peter Principle [wikipedia.org] applies to everyone. Especially the incompetents at all levels in government - even POTUS hisself.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JavaRob (28971)

        Realize that the Peter Principle [wikipedia.org] applies to everyone. Especially the incompetents at all levels in government - even POTUS hisself.

        This is not a normal example of the Peter Principle. Bush would have already been promoted to his level of incompetence if they'd hired him as assistant to the secretary of the White House caterer. He'd already been "promoted" beyond his level of competence when he was governor of Texas.

  • by sunderland56 (621843) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:02PM (#22688592)
    I find the fact that the US Government runs on Lotus Notes more scary than the fact that they don't have any sort of backup strategy.

    I bet if you go over to the IRS, those guys have a rock-solid backup going back many years.....
    • I bet if you go over to the IRS, those guys have a rock-solid backup going back many years.....

      Well, I wouldn't look to the IRS as a paragon of information technology deployment either. They have their problems.
    • by dpilot (134227)
      Don't you find the idea that they're migrating to LookOut equally scary?

      The real issue here is that it isn't the tool, either Notes or Exchange, it's the competence and policies of the administrators, along with delivering that to the users with proper support. Just because it's the White House doesn't make the needs different in kind, only quality.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      The actual moral to the story is don't switch FROM Lotus Notes. At least not to Exchange. If they had multiple replicated servers, it wouldn't have been as easy for them to ,ahem, accidently lose all those emails.
    • " Mr. ISSA. Okay. So here we have a situation where the Clinton Administration is on a platform that has to be phased out. Simply, they lost the war of who is going to supply emails. A period of time goes on in which Yes, we are dealing, to Dr. Weinstein's concern, with getting good archives, but we are also dealing with the fact that I can't play my Betamax tapes any more, either, and I can't seem to find anybody who has a Betamax player any more."

      Maybe Mr Issa should look here [ibm.com]. And Republicans are the
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:05PM (#22688608)
    All their interesting stuff went through private mail servers at the RNC [house.gov] to evade responsibility for document retention under the Presidential Records Act. The RNC systematically destroys its emails and Bush has even invoked executive privilege in ordering the RNC to defy Congressional subpoenas to produce them.
    • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cfulmer (3166) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:49PM (#22688836) Homepage Journal
      There is a completely acceptable reason for going through the RNC, and it's the same reason that the Clinton administration used similar services at the DNC: there are two competing acts. You've mentioned the Presidential Records Act, which is intended to protect the official records of the White House. There's also the Hatch Act, which (among other things) prevents government computers from being used for political activities. Emails regarding political activities went through the RNC servers (or, in the case of the Clinton Administration, the DNC servers); emails regarding activities as President, i.e. the Presidential Records, are supposed to go through the White House email system, where they are backed up and archived. So, you cannot infer an intent to violate the Presidential Records Act merely from the fact that outside services were used.
      • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @05:58PM (#22689210)
        There's also the Hatch Act, which (among other things) prevents government computers from being used for political activities. Emails regarding political activities went through the RNC servers (or, in the case of the Clinton Administration, the DNC servers); emails regarding activities as President, i.e. the Presidential Records, are supposed to go through the White House email system, where they are backed up and archived. So, you cannot infer an intent to violate the Presidential Records Act merely from the fact that outside services were used.

        There, I helped you out with a few BOLD tags. Your mistake is assuming that an email either falls under the scope of partisian political activity or represents communication at official levels regarding government business. They sent emails that were both.

        When you're having an email conversation (for example) about which U.S. Attorneys should be fired by the president for prosecuting Republican offenses or for not going after Democrats in election years, and what the cover stories for the firings should be, you're mixing political partisan activity and official government business. Since these emails were illegal for government officials to be sending, they obviously didn't use the White House email infrastructure to send them. Even these guys weren't that stupid. They were dumb enough, though, to indicate in WH emails when they were going to continue certain conversations, regarding planned activities to be carried out in an official capacity, in nongovernmental channels (RNC, gwb43.com, Yahoo Mail) to avoid them from ever becoming public.

        But the purpose of the Hatch Act (passed in 1939) isn't just to protect Outlook servers from private or partisan use- it forbids the use of any federal agencies or resources to assist in partisan activities. That would include both WH email servers and the U.S. Department of Justice.
        • by cfulmer (3166)

          it forbids the use of any federal agencies or resources to assist in partisan activities

          I think that you mean political activities. If it actually banned partisan activities, the Congress would have to shut down.

          You are correct -- there can be emails which are both. And, if you're trying to figure out how to send such an email, which law do you follow? If you send it through the official White House mail server, Henry Waxman will go after you for using White House servers for political business. If you

          • The best answer should be that the President should never made decisions for political reasons. But, that's a standard that has been violated by every president since General Washington.

            Yes, and since "historians are still debating the first president" it's supposedly premature to judge this president's activities until all of us are dead. But I somehow doubt George Washington ever ordered his Attorney General to concentrate on investigating members of the Democratic-Republican Party as opposed to Federalis
  • wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy.tpno-co@org> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:08PM (#22688626) Homepage
    Here I am, some lowly line level system tech for a smallish town, and I'd be handed my marching orders were I even a quarter as incompetent as the white house staff seems to be. Which leads me to suspect:

    1) Either they are that incompetent, and it's just a symptom of big government not knowing it's ass from it's face
    OR
    2) These people are purposefully appearing this inept.

    Either option isn't pleasant, and both lead to a serious problem with our government where there will likely be no repercussions from this.

    But then, we all knew that already, didn't we?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Detritus (11846)
      I'd vote for (3) Responsibility without authority. You have a whole building full of "important people" and political hacks who believe that rules and procedures are only for the little people.
      • I'd vote for (3) Responsibility without authority. You have a whole city full of "important people" and political hacks who believe that rules and procedures are only for the little people.

        There, fixed that for you.

    • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by laird (2705) <lairdp AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:27PM (#22688720) Journal
      The problem, I believe, is that the Presidential Records Act has no enforcement provisions or penalties for non-compliance. Thus, if the White House prefers to ignore it, there's no risk in doing so. So if the value of non-compliance is higher than the value of compliance, which is the case right now, the PRA loses.

      This is not simply a case of incompetent IT staff setting up a system badly. The White House had an email system that by all accounts worked very well, archiving everything properly, and it was shut down and the staff let go, and the new system was set up by someone over-ruling their own IT staff in order to make sure that it couldn't work properly. That means that someone made the decision to spend a lot of time and money to eliminate a system that worked properly, to replace it with a system that didn't, over-ruling the recommendations of their own IT staff, which can only have been done intentionally.

      What would be ideal would be for the PRA to be given real teeth so that the cost of violating it becomes clearly higher than the cost of not hiding whatever it is you want hidden. Given the extremely high value of keeping embarrassing or illegal behavior secret, the penalty needs to be extremely high as well, as it is for destroying evidence. That is to say, courts should presume that the records that were destroyed were incriminating. Judges take destroying evidence of a crime quite seriously.
      • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by postbigbang (761081) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @05:11PM (#22688982)
        While there's no seeming penalty, civil or criminal, there is a bigger penalty: ongoing confidence in government. The hubris and arrogance has become intolerable. This is just one symptom of a government gone berserk. Vetoing a bill on torture was another. Sliming the US House of Representatives because it won't pass a bill allowing the telcos to violate the very tenets of liberty in the constitution is another. The list is long. The list is sad. These are evil days, my friends.
        • by laird (2705)
          "While there's no seeming penalty, civil or criminal, there is a bigger penalty: ongoing confidence in government."

          Yes. but that's not a cost paid by the people that violate the law, it's a cost paid by all of us. In terms of the people making decisions to violate the Presidential Records Act, whose declared goal is to destroy people's confidence in the government, this is another reason to ignore the PRA.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Look at this guy's record. He has a long history of driving companies out of business, or having them bailed out by others. Remember, this guy literally couldn't find oil in Bahrain. Then he promised to run the country like a corporation. If it weren't for this long history of incompetence, you could suggest that maybe he's intentionally trying to screw things up. But he does have that history. He's a chronic screw up and that's more than enough explanation. If others are using his incompetence to further t
      • by dpilot (134227)
        > Then he promised to run the country like a corporation.

        He has run the country like a corporation. His own. You gave the prior record. The only surprise is the continued willing blindness in the Party and populace.
  • "Excessive Cost" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SeaFox (739806) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:11PM (#22688640)

    I object to using the inaccurate and inflated claim of excessive cost as a reason to avoid compliance with the Presidential Records Act

    Considering how much we're spending in what are arguably other countries' wars, I'd find a claim of "excessive cost" for anything laughable.
    • We're talking the office of the president, here -- where a trip to Hawaii probably results in $1M worth of planning. When the backup system starts to exceed that kind of price, you can start to cry to me about costs.
  • Solution (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cuppa 'Joe' Black (1000483) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:16PM (#22688662)
    Someone just needs to 'leak' that one of those archived emails contains a transcript of Osama bin Laden endorsing Barack Obama for president. Then stand back because we are all going to be sprayed with WH archived emails.
  • I watched this on TV (Score:4, Interesting)

    by value_added (719364) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:28PM (#22688724)
    So much for those that say watching CSPAN coverage of legislative hearings is as boring as watching paint dry.

    The article, despite being spread across multiple pages, characterises the hearing fairly, so I won't bother reiterating except to say that the committee members were indeed uninformed, the witnesses were somewhere between clueless and dishonest, and the politics injected into the situation (notably from the Republicans) was so thick that I wondered whether anything could be agreed upon or any of the issues resolved. Hell, by the end of it, I doubt anyone really knew what the technical issues were, myself included.

    The saving grace was watching (no one could hear what he was saying) the soft-spoken White House archivist and remembering the joke about how to tell the difference between an introverted and extroverted geek. Instead of shoes, it was microphones.

    Your government in action, folks. The bad guys trying to cover up, the good guys trying to find out what's going on, and both groups taking its cues Microsoft weenies.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:38PM (#22688762) Homepage

    Big, corrupted PST files? No problem. Just get Stellar Phoenix PST Repair [repair-outlook-pst.com]. "Stellar Phoenix can repair PST files in all scenarios including the common issues listed below ... Oversized PST files with 2Gb problem. Recovers from encrypted files. Recovers deleted e-mails." U.S. Government price $249 with CD. Immediate download available. Recommended by PC Magazine.

    This little problem can be overcome. Just get some image copies of those tapes out to the Internet Archive or Wikileaks, and all the technical problems will be quickly dealt with, the data will go on line, and it will all be indexed.

  • by rainer_d (115765) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:40PM (#22688770) Homepage
    Are you new here?
    Honestly, this is a classic, almost Hollywood-style presidential-aid-villain-style tactic.
    First, you dry up all the funding to something so that you can later claim there was not enough money to do it right.
    And in the process of doing it "not right" some important stuff gets lost so the people in charge can't be charged later (which they can't anyway, because presidents make a habit of indemnifying their successors and most of the senior staff around them, because if they wouldn't, their successor wouldn't indemnify them...).

    Still wondering why people actually get out of their bed and vote?

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Honestly, this is a classic, almost Hollywood-style presidential-aid-villain-style tactic.
      ...
      Still wondering why people actually get out of their bed and vote?
      To prevent 4 more years?

      Honestly though, this is what happens when ill-intentioned people abuse well intentioned laws. Party affiliation shouldn't effect the basic runnings of government.
  • The cost of retrieval is normally included in evaluating any backup solution. If I need a particular SLA I need to evaluate the cost of a given solution in restoring, not just backing up. If I didn't evaluate that during my analysis I have to eat that cost when providing the service. And accessing PSTs via code is easy, so it's not like something couldn't just suck the mail out of the PST as needed. That said a PST isn't an archival format as far as I'm concerned. Oh, and "PSTs above their safe level"
  • by kilodelta (843627) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @05:52PM (#22689184) Homepage
    I cannot stand Microsoft Exchange in any of it's versions. It is nothing but an I.T. headache of the worst kind. Try backing up the mail store, I dare you. After spending several thousand more dollars you'll be close but no cigar.

    In my former place of employment we used a lot of OSS for things like web, email, database, etc. Even Samba. We had a few MS-SQL environments but I stayed as far from those as I could. For email we used Qmail with a SquirrelMail front end, and for web it was Apache/Plone and databases were MySQL.

    The nice thing about Qmail is it stores email in user home folders. They're flat files that are easily replicated and backed up.

    When the new administration came in the Director of Admin was paranoid about the fact that I.T. could see her email folder. So they went out and spent a shitload of money on AD, Exchange, etc.

    That was a year ago. They still don't have it all running.
    • The nice thing about Qmail is it stores email in user home folders. They're flat files that are easily replicated and backed up.

      And you back up every incoming email at the time it comes in? If you're doing nightly backups, then you're not able to archive every email if someone deletes the email from their home folder.

      When the new administration came in the Director of Admin was paranoid about the fact that I.T. could see her email folder. So they went out and spent a shitload of money on AD, Exchange, etc. That was a year ago. They still don't have it all running.

      Which only goes to show that your administration hired people who were incompetent. A year to get Active Directory and Exchange running? You've got to be kidding.

      • by kilodelta (843627)
        Actually we implemented an Rsnapshot server to run every 15 minutes and we kept 8 hours of backups. The nice thing was Rsnapshot did incremental very well.

        As to the AD/Exchange conversion, I was still there when all the gear and software rolled in. It all came in during April 2007. I was talking to the other systems guy and asked what his gut estimate was for lights-on. He figured January 2008, here we are in March and it still isn't up. That's because they laid me off and the other systems guy all of a
        • Actually we implemented an Rsnapshot server to run every 15 minutes and we kept 8 hours of backups. The nice thing was Rsnapshot did incremental very well.

          Sounds nice, but as the AC replied, that won't cover deletions within that window of time. It's probably also not legal in terms of SOX/HIPA compliance either. Of course, that probably doesn't apply to your company but there are many solutions out there which keep a record of absolutely everything.

          As to the AD/Exchange conversion, I was still there when all the gear and software rolled in. It all came in during April 2007. I was talking to the other systems guy and asked what his gut estimate was for lights-on. He figured January 2008, here we are in March and it still isn't up. That's because they laid me off and the other systems guy all of a sudden got stupid on them. It's too funny.

          Yeah, it does sound like the systems guy got all stupid. Unless you work for GM and you're doing a really huge deployment for hundreds of thousands of people with some complex integration pieces, it's really

  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:27PM (#22689308) Homepage
    is because they DON'T KNOW what's in them.

    With the morons they have on staff up there - and that includes Bush - they can't be sure all sorts of incriminating stuff isn't in them. In fact, they probably assume there is.

    So they stonewall.

    Read TFA. They're making estimates of the cost of recovery of the PST files as wildly off the mark. They're claiming it would cost $50K just to recover ONE PST file! And half a million bucks to recover 5,000 PST files!

    That's deliberately false testimony - i.e., perjury.

    Face it, folks. This country is being run by criminals now - just like in Warren Ellis' comic, "Reload". Look up Sibel Edmonds [justacitizen.org] on Google and see just how bad it is.

    • Maybe citizens who have some free time on their hands and the experience/clearance necessary can make an organization to do these things for free for Govt agencies. That would be pretty cool because it could be a non-partisan group who does this.

      But really, what are the odds that ANYONE in govt would want this? Too bad though.
  • Slashdotters may think that it looks bad for the President's email systems to be horribly unreliable. Compared with what was probably in those emails, this is nothing. In fact, this whole missing email thing is brilliant, and from the Pres's perspective, a job well done. The missing content gives the Pres a get-out-of-jail-free card. Not that he really needs one, since our Constitution makes kings out of our Presidents here in America, with the ability to do whatever they damn well please.
  • If you want the context that would make it surprising if the white house did anything other than hide every aspect of what they did, take a look at the book Worse Than Watergate. [amazon.com] Or get it on audio book and listen to it. It certainly contains some bias, but that's an unfortunate and unnecessary detriment to a text that very thoroughly documents numerous counts of unreasonable and often illegal attempts to maintain a monumental shroud of secrecy over everything this administration does.

    I found the bit abou
  • I've been doing email admin for a couple of decades now...I started off running a Fidonet system, and have managed email servers for Fortune 500 companies. I don't use Exchange. After Opus and Maximus, all of the mail servers I have worked on were Unix. And under Unix, even with the beast that is Sendmail, it is *easy* to make a complete duplicate of all email going through a server. And as the emails are stored as text files, you are really only limited by the size of your file system's maximum file size.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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