Democrats & Liberals Archives

Covering your tracks the White House way

The White House disclosed (link) for the first time since the CIA leak probe began that it had taped over its backup tapes for all electronic documents including e-mail before 2003.

The White House acknowledges 'recycling' backup computer tapes of email and other electronic documents, a practice that may have wiped out many electronic messages and documents from the early years of the Bush administration, including some messages pertaining to the CIA-leak investigation.

If you recall, during the Fitzgerald CIA leak investigation, it was discovered that a large number of emails (some have indicated the number of emails to total over 10 million) were deleted. The missing emails included some of those implicated in the CIA Leak/ Plame outing investigation. Fitzgerald requested records of the White House email communication during the period before 2003 but found that the White House was unable to retrieve the email.

In doing so, did the White House violate two laws requiring preservation of documents that fall into the categories of federal records or presidential records?

That's not what they are thinking at the White House. According to a White House aide in sworn testimony, the White House recycled its backup tapes "consistent with industry best practices".

Which industry would that be?

For example: the SEC requires (link) that American securities firms retain their electronic documents for seven to five years. Those documents must be accessible to search and restore for a quick turnaround. Brokerage firms must keep all correspondence regarding a stock trade for six years, while email related to general business issues must be kept three years. Of course the SEC regulations are under the umbrella of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX).

HIPAA retention requires anywhere from three to six years, depending on the document and sensitivity of the information.

According to the sworn testimony:


  • Before October 2003, the White House recycled backup tapes, a step that reversed a policy of preservation put in place in the last year of the Clinton administration.
  • The White House began saving all backup tapes in October 2003, a time marked by the beginning of the Justice Department’s CIA leak probe.
  • An unidentified employee who has since left the White House created a chart showing that some components of the Executive Office of the President were missing e-mails from White House computer servers on certain dates in 2003-2005.
  • The White House Office of Administration has serious reservations about the reliability of the chart and the White House is conducting an independent assessment to determine ‘‘whether there may be anomalies’’ in the amount of e-mail.

  • Was it a mere coincidence that the White House reinstituted the recycling plan shortly after the CIA leak occurred? Or was it the White House just covering their tracks?

    Posted by john trevisani at January 17, 2008 9:21 AM
    Comments
    Comment #243114
    According to a White House aide in sworn testimony, the White House recycled its backup tapes “consistent with industry best practices”.

    Which industry would that be?

    Remember when GW was running for president, he promised to run the country like a business…of course, every business he ever ran he ran into the ground and daddy’s friends baled him out…unfortunately now it is the middle class who will be baling out the government in years to come…but the rich will have made money off Bush’s “business” of war, lack of jobs, recession, and tax breaks.

    Posted by: Rachel at January 17, 2008 10:03 AM
    Comment #243124

    You know, it COULD have something to do with the technology of being able to manage and maintain full backups of all email coming in and going out regardless of user action didn’t really come into the marketplace until after SOX, around 2003…

    I know, it’s easier to just go to the ‘there must be a conspiracy’ or ‘they are hiding something’ but a good understanding of the realities of email systems and management might help here. I’m not saying that some chicanery didn’t go on, but jumping immediately to that conclusion is not really the most objective way to look at it.

    As for ‘industry best practice’, that would be the Information Technology industry. Backups, before SOX were not there keeping every piece of correspondence that enters or leaves the perimiter of the network. It was there to recover a user’s mailbox and restore email functionality. Usually this means recycling daily and weekly backups, sending monthly backups offsite and only keeping one monthly backup each year. Users can and do delete mail as it comes in or goes out, the backups were just snapshots of the user’s mailbox at that point in time. SOX has changed the rules and many are still trying to implement systems that can meet those rules. New systems, like Symantec’s, will now allow administrators to set up large (very very large) storage of email archives that will store and retain all mail that comes in and goes out, but this technology is still relatively new, in 2002 there was really nothing like this in place that worked well or storage large enough to handle the requirements that this puts on an IT staff to manage.

    And remember, when Clinton was in office, he sent a total of 2 emails.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 12:02 PM
    Comment #243125

    It is all so Nixonian. Maybe when he was running the country like a business, Bush forgot to have us incorporated in the Cayman Islands, but at least he is getting the Saudis to bail out the Have Mores.

    Posted by: ohrealy at January 17, 2008 12:05 PM
    Comment #243127

    Oh wait, that’s right, I forgot. According to Democrats, government should just be able to wave a magic wand and ignore technological limitations.

    *poof* all emails magically saved forever
    *poof* alternate fuels are widely available as are the cars to utilize them
    *poof* all pollution is stopped immediately without harm to our economy and way of life
    *poof* everyone’s needs are taken care of by the government for free

    Imagine how hard all of that would be without those magic wands!

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 12:17 PM
    Comment #243136

    Rhinehold,

    You do what alot of the GOP Bush supporters do.
    You resort to making fun of those who disagree with you, not because of a lack of facts on their part but out of a lack of plausible excuses for this administration. It’s funny that you try to throw the writer a bone, “I’m not saying that some chicanery didn’t go on,” then go on to pretend you are the voice of reason and the previous posters were going off the deep end. It’s a sad and obvious tactic that stopped working years ago. Ask OReilly, Rush and the rest of the ignored Bush apologists.
    The Bush administration is as secretive as they are inept. To try and argue against those two obvious fact is gotta be tough sledding. Why keep doing it?
    Good luck in your endeavor.

    Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at January 17, 2008 12:49 PM
    Comment #243138

    Andre,

    What a rediculous and ignorant statement. I spent paragraphs detailing the issues related backing up data from an email system as large as the Federal Government’s would be, having a little bit of knowledge in this area since it is MY JOB. I tried to keep it a little simple for non-technical consumption.

    And I get told I’m doing something that I’m not because? Oh yeah, you have NOTHING to go on. Not just a lack of facts, Andre, but a lack logical reasoning. YOU and the author are applying motive, something you provide NO facts to back up and can’t know without those facts, to something that more reasonably is as is stated, until 2003 this was the normal IT industry way of backing up email.

    As for ‘defending’ Bush, I’ll say it once again since this comes up when anyone tries to inject reasonability and objectiveness into the discussion re: Bush is a maniacal Machavelian leader…

    I never voted for Bush and I dislike most everything he stands for and has done, especially when it comes to our indiidual rights.

    However, that does not mean it makes sense to assign all kinds of assumptions into each and every ‘accusation’ that comes along as proof of something that has not been proven.

    This can be seen in my past post: The Sad Cost of Crying Wolf

    Many of us are concerned with the government becoming tyrannical. As a Libertarian you might surmise that I already feel that it has. But in order to draw attention to the many things that are examples of over-reaching of the federal government we have to avoid jumping on the bandwagon of unproven accusations or stories made up to scare those that do not agree that this type of behavior is occurring or could be a concern if it is.

    And worse, it starts to make me pause and wonder if any of the other stories that may or may not have been substantiated were made up as well. I usually do a fair amount of research before believing some story about the government, even though I personal feel that it might be likely such as this one, before accepting as truth. It was during the investigation of this charge that I came across the very unreported detail that the charge was false. But how many people simply latch upon any potential injustice and use it as a underpinning of their already rabid hatred of government, whether it is due to a knowledge of the real power of government or because of an adversarial hatred due to partisan politics? How many hoaxes and incorrect assertions have been made in the name of ‘fighting the good fight’?

    We, as civilized thinking animals MUST strive to ensure that we do not fall into the trap that I see many people getting caught up in. We have to put aside our emotions and examine accusations on the merits of the specific accusations and not use them to bolster are already made up minds. I’ve seen too many people say “I don’t know if this story is true or not but it fits with what I know about ….” NO, run from this trap if you see yourself starting to say those very words in your head. Take the extra effort to make sure that you are truly adding a factual injustice to your arsenal of tyrannical examples before making a fool of not only yourself but the very cause you are working so hard to represent, not only in this subject but any other you might find yourself involved in.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 1:00 PM
    Comment #243143

    Information Technology merely facilitates the guidelines and standards that the business mandate. IT doesn’t make the retention policy, they implement it.

    One corporation that i worked for had a retention policy of seven years. The company was in the financial services industry and mandated that IT maintain backups (that can be restored quickly!) of all electronic communication, voice mail and electronic documents. And i haven’t been with that organization since 97.

    Posted by: john trevisani at January 17, 2008 1:51 PM
    Comment #243144

    Rhinehold,

    You tell me that the “poof” bit was reasonable debate?
    “According to Democrats, government should just be able to wave a magic wand and ignore technological limitations.”
    Posted by Rhinehold

    You mock an entire party because the author asks a question that most Americans are asking right now?
    “Was it a mere coincidence that the White House reinstituted the recycling plan shortly after the CIA leak occurred? Or was it the White House just covering their tracks?
    That was John’s question, not conspiracy theory.

    The welfare state/socialism jab has nothing to do with your in depth knowledge of the IT world and how frequently a company recycles it’s email files.
    “*poof* everyone’s needs are taken care of by the government for free.”
    If you stop mocking those who do not march off the GOP cliff with you, and excusing the Bush administration long enough to read, listen and see that we’re asking questions not cliff jumping. We demand answers from our government and as United States citizens we’re entitled to them.
    Godd luck in your endeavors.

    Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at January 17, 2008 1:54 PM
    Comment #243147

    John, that mandate is exactly what I’m talking about. BUT, you haven’t answered the question.

    If you delete an email (let’s say something about a good viagra deal) in your inbox before a system backup occurs, does that email get saved somewhere to be called up again?

    Was there any keeping of ALL tapes?

    Was the policy there to be able to restore ALL email that ever existed at any point in time or just the current point in time?

    What you have described is the default email retention policy before SOX. It has no requirement to keep all email that enters or leaves the system, only that all documents that exist at a specific point in time are restorable. It has no requirements to be able to restore the email system as it was at any point in time in the past, only that it can be brought up again in case of system failure.

    Now, the monthly backups do get kept so that there is a way to go back to a restore in the past, but there is no way to ensure, with the technology that existed in 1997, let alone 2001, that it captured all email that ever existed in the system. It was not the focus or requirement.

    Reread what that policy states, John, it would be illuminating.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 1:59 PM
    Comment #243148

    And, BTW, only in certain cases does the IT department not set the policy. In most cases, it was (before SOX) the IT department or CIO specifically that signed off on it unless the Legal department had overriding needs.

    And saying that all email that enters or leaves the network perimiter is a nice thing to say but until a few years ago that simply wasn’t possible.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 2:00 PM
    Comment #243149
    If you stop mocking those who do not march off the GOP cliff with you, and excusing the Bush administration long enough to read, listen and see that we’re asking questions not cliff jumping. We demand answers from our government and as United States citizens we’re entitled to them.

    *sigh* Libertarian, again, not GOP. I was once a Democrat and am now a Libertarian because of the infiltration of the progressives into the party. I have never been nor can possibly be a Republican. Hope that helps…

    But, let’s get to the point!

    Is it becasue you are a baby eater that you make this mistake or is it because you beat your wife? Or are you just incompetent?

    See, I’m only asking questions, Andre… You shouldn’t see anything in there because I’m just asking questions… I’m not making any implication at all! I’m not discounting the story that you give that you are a good upstanding citizen, because I just want to get answers to these questions…

    Good luck with your endeavors as well, perhaps you will achieve your goal of convincing another few people to ignore reason and reationality and take a ride on the ‘crying wolf’ train. There may be a wolf there, you know. But it makes it hard to believe considering all of the past innacurate ‘questions’ that have been raised.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 2:09 PM
    Comment #243150
    You tell me that the “poof” bit was reasonable debate?

    Nope, it was pretty much a well delivered cheap shot (accurate as well, but besides the point).

    Which is why it was in a different comment. Does that comment discount the paragraphs I wrote detailing the intracacies of the problem at hand?

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 2:10 PM
    Comment #243152

    Rhinehold,

    No, but it does trivialize the problem at hand.
    John never said that the Bush administration did or did not do any thing. He’s asking a question that alot of us want answered.
    The question is being raised with a great deal of suspician because the Bush administration has been trumpeting the call for secrecy for the past 7 years.
    Have they been secretive?
    Have they been misleading?
    Have they been open and honest?
    Have they been competent?
    You tell me.

    Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at January 17, 2008 2:34 PM
    Comment #243153

    i’m going to have to disagree with you. IT does not write policy that protects the legal interest of the company.

    As we all seem to draw on personal experiences, i can offer that i was involved with the email policy for that company. i reported to the CIO at the time and i brought up the very issue of emails, email usage, email privacy and email retention. That particular policy that was drafted came from legal and was eventually signed off by the CEO.

    Legal drafted the policy with the thought that any and all information stored on the company’s servers were the property and responsibility of the company. Therefore, the company began the policy where they would monitor and would retain, for legal purposes, all communication. Yes… even those early spam messages. Legal’s intent was to protect the $250 billion company from litigation if any confidential information were electronically leaked.

    Posted by: john trevisani at January 17, 2008 2:36 PM
    Comment #243156
    Have they been secretive?

    Yes, a little more than the previous administration to be sure.

    Have they been misleading?

    Yes and no. In some instances yes and in some instances no.

    Have they been open and honest?

    Not very often but sometimes yes.

    Have they been competent?

    In about every measurable way, not a chance.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 3:03 PM
    Comment #243159

    John,

    And how, techincally, did they do that? Since the technical ability to intercept each email and store it away from the users who could delete it didn’t exist then, how exactly was this done? Or, is it more likely, that they backed up the server each night and those backups were saved instead of recycled? If so, that does NOT meet the needs that exist today nor does it ensure the capture and maintaining of all email that enters the network perimiter.

    (as a small aside, I was hired a few years ago to go through old tapes for a VERY large company because of a lawsuit to find emails that pertained to the lawsuit, all the way to 1995 when the technology was just getting started. While they did have some tapes, it was very hit or miss, some tapes just couldn’t be read, tape has a habit of not lasting that long, and I found clumps of data with large swaths missing.)

    I think if you re-read what I wrote, I said that IT sets the policy UNLESS the legal department has other needs for it. This was, of course, before SOX. Many times, the company didn’t have a large onstaff legal department and others didn’t have a legal department that understood or used email until the late 90s. As I said, Clinton himself only sent two emails in his entire time as president. It wasn’t until the very late 90s during the boom that email started being used as the main source of communications in a company and called ‘mission critical’.

    As for my personal history, I’ve been in the IT field since the mid 1980s and specifically implement and support large Exchange email systems for one of the top consulting firms in the country for several thousand user companies and corporations. I believe I have a small bit of non-adectodal knowledge on the subject.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 3:12 PM
    Comment #243167

    Rhinehold,

    Gee, do you suppose that members of the Bush administration have given us any reason to be suspicious? Consider this exchange with Tony Fratto just today:

    ***********************

    “Olivier.

    Q Yes, I want to follow up on that, I’ve taken a real sky view of this particular story, but — so it was wrong to say a few months ago that there were possibly millions of emails missing?

    MR. FRATTO: I think those charges came from outside the White House. I think that’s the charge of one of the —

    Q One of your colleagues addressed those from the podium and suggested that that was accurate — again, I’m taking —

    MR. FRATTO: I’m not sure what was said on that. I can tell you today, though, that we have no evidence and we have no way of showing that any email at all are missing.”

    *******************

    Is it at least a reasonable assumption that the story keeps changing?

    I accept your IT knowledge as valid.

    I used to be a probation officer, and I learned that when someone has trouble keeping their story straight they’re usually blowing smoke where it doesn’t belong. Can you accept that?

    Link to the quoted briefing:
    http://tinyurl.com/2w8wjm

    More info (contradictions) here:
    http://www.citizensforethics.org/node/30771

    Posted by: KansasDem at January 17, 2008 4:04 PM
    Comment #243169

    Sounds to me like they really don’t have a clue what is missing and what isn’t. Perhaps this is feigned ignorance, or it could be, as I have no problem believing, complete and accurate incompetence.

    With the number of people who really don’t know much about how email works or the requirements to safeguard it in the manner that they think it needs to be, it is not surprising to me that politicians just don’t have a clue but we know they are simpley unwilling to do that.

    Would you feel better if they got up there and said ‘Hell, to be honest, we don’t have a clue what is going on yet’?

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 4:16 PM
    Comment #243175

    “Would you feel better if they got up there and said ‘Hell, to be honest, we don’t have a clue what is going on yet’?”

    Rhinehold,

    Yes! When I just don’t know, I say, “I just don’t know”. Unless, of course, I’m expressing an opinion. Opinions can be based solely on ideology or just out of thin air.

    The problem is that Fitzgerald was told a different story, unless Fitzgerald was being less than honest or forthright.

    One of the reasons I included a link to CREW’s one website is this is their lawsuit. I think they’ve done an excellent job showing what at least appears to be deceit.

    Certainly after “depends on what is, is” the bar is set awfully low regarding proper conduct by any POTUS, but Clinton’s feet were certainly held to the fire. I expect no less in regards to Bush.

    Posted by: KansasDem at January 17, 2008 4:56 PM
    Comment #243176

    Rhinehold:
    you illustrated my point exactly. you went back to the old tapes in an effort to extract information for some legal case. It sure sounds like to me that you had tapes to look through. It also sounds that in some case you hit and in some case you missed. Meaning that the data, that was probably 10 years old was found and used. And the information that you couldn’t access, well… wasn’t used.

    Your particular scenario could not have been even conceived had the ‘very big’ company that contracted you to search through their tape archive had ‘recycled’ their back-up tapes. The fact is that you were given backup tapes from the company. And although you mentioned specifically about missing areas on the tape backups, it sounded like you found some data; so it would appear that the company had gotten some of the data.

    If the Bush administration had followed the same path that the company that contracted you to peruse their tapes, Fitzgerald might have been able to find some evidence to exonerate Bush, Cheney, Rove, Libby, etc… Instead, they deleted the data about the time that things began to heat up. And now they claim it was and industry standard.

    It’s not a technology problem Rhinehold; it’s a law thing.

    Posted by: john trevisani at January 17, 2008 4:58 PM
    Comment #243177

    John,

    you illustrated my point exactly.

    Actually, this is where you are mistaken. The tapes I went through were occasional monthly tapes. They were point in time tapes. Which meant that there was no way to ensure that all mail was recovered. In fact, it would have been luckly if anyone would have been able to recovery 10% of that mail. There was also no ability in place to archive all mail that entered or left the company during those times.

    We did our best and had we found something, that would have been great. But in the 10 years I looked through, I was given about 35 or 40 tapes. Most of the tapes were groups of tapes that were not written over when the backup technology changed and they went from one tape technolgy to another and no longer needed to recycle those tapes. On average, I had about two good tapes a year, some more in one year some less in others. But these were only good for what was in those mailboxes at that time when the backups were taken.

    The proceedure is to recycle daily tapes once a months worth of tapes are taken. Then to recyle weekly tapes once a years worth of monthly tapes are taken. Then recycle monthly tapes once a certain number of yearly tapes are taken.

    In each of these tapes, even if nightly tapes are kept, all you are getting is what is in those mailboxes AT THAT TIME. Any mail that came in and was deleted or went out and was deleted from the sent items folder is lost. Any mail that is blocked by spam filters is not saved.

    There was, at the time, no way to get ALL MAIL. New techology now, to comply with SOX, has been created and is starting to be implemented in datacenters all over, but not nearly at a very large percentage. It will take still years before full compliance with SOX is in place, I imagine.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 5:17 PM
    Comment #243179

    Rhinehold:

    The tapes I went through were occasional monthly tapes….

    You had tapes.
    Fitzgerald didn’t.

    You keep making this some technology thing because you’re so involved in this as day-to-day thing. This subject is obviously a personal pain point for you. You obviously understand all of the problems pertaining to records retention and all of the consternation relating to effective managing such storage. It must be a bear.

    But that’s obviously not the point here. It’s your point, but it’s the point of destroying back up tapes by this administration.

    Posted by: john trevisani at January 17, 2008 5:58 PM
    Comment #243182

    And they said that they were complying with Industry Standards, which was questioned and I detailed how that statement was correct.

    Was there a law in place that they could not overwrite outdated backups? If so, where is that law so I can peruse it and have my mind changed?

    Or is accusation enough these days?

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 6:15 PM
    Comment #243196

    Rhinehold,

    I think the key question is this: Was there any technical reason that they couldn’t have retained the old tapes instead of overwriting them?

    If the answer is “No”, then it is certainly reasonable to ask why they made the POLICY decisions that they did.

    Posted by: Woody Mena at January 17, 2008 7:25 PM
    Comment #243198

    i love how you ask yourself a question; answer on my behalf and then make fun of my/your answer by proxy.

    Simply brilliant sir!

    But to answer the question:
    Congress passed the Presidential Records Act, which requires each president to maintain records of all activities, deliberations, decisions and policies. The day that the President leaves office the Archivist takes control and responsibility for those records. Although the PRA was passed in 78, before the proliferation of mass email, email must be considered as a valid for of record. For a description of what is valid you may go here. (http://www.archives.gov/about/laws/presidential-records.html)


    Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President(1993) ruled that electronic mail and word processing files must be managed as government records. (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=search&case=/data2/circs/DC/955377a.html)

    Then there’s the Waxman report (http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070618105243.pdf)

    Posted by: john trevisani at January 17, 2008 7:30 PM
    Comment #243199

    I do not know if any of this matters with less than a year left on the Bush term. What, are they going to impeach him, or prosecute someone else that he will just pardon? Bush enjoys breaking the law and getting away with it, so he probably ordered the destruction of whatever it is, the technical aspects of which are beyond my comprehension, and Bushes.

    All I know is that after I got a Netgear WiFi at home, I filled up my laptop with everything I could ever want, and it did some kind of file compression on its own, so that after I defragged, I had zero fragmented files for the first time ever. Those little red lines used to drive me crazy.

    Posted by: ohrealy at January 17, 2008 7:55 PM
    Comment #243214

    link

    “The best practice is to archive and store everything in a system that’s searchable for e-mail and kept in an orderly and organized way,” said Rurik Bradbury, vice president of strategy for Intermedia, which runs e-mail systems for a quarter of a million companies.

    “In the financial industry and the accounting and law fields, there are federal and industry regulations which require them to keep all e-mail for a period of many years in a separate archive, and that archive has to be searchable,” said Bradbury.

    Requirements for industry and government are different, with stringent requirements for preservation of federal and presidential records. The Federal Records Act contains criminal penalties of up to three years in prison for destruction of government documents.

    Posted by: john trevisani at January 17, 2008 11:06 PM
    Comment #243216

    John,

    I see you beat me to the punch.

    I found the same identical article on Yahoo News via the AP:

    http://tinyurl.com/2de5hx

    Pretty hard to dismiss someone with these credentials, “vice president of strategy for Intermedia, which runs e-mail systems for a quarter of a million companies.”

    Posted by: KansasDem at January 17, 2008 11:39 PM
    Comment #243217

    I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall…

    Yes NOW, because of SOX regulations, email archiving solutions are becomming very popular and the technology exists to meet this need.

    In 2001-2003 the technology wasn’t there and it was NOT standard operating procedure.

    The reporter should ask better questions or try to understand the issues he’s writing on.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 18, 2008 1:01 AM
    Comment #243222

    This whole thing has become ridiculous long ago.

    I assume all of you use email. How many ways could your simple email be misinterpreted, especially by people trying to find something to complain about.

    If the president broke a law, make it a REAL legal case that will apply to this and all future administrations, as well as relevant members of Congress etc. If not, you guys are in ghost story mode again.

    It will be very interesting to see how the Bush haters are going to respond to a world where he is no longer president. They really have gone off the deep end on these things and lost all touch with reason. Hysteria reigns on the left.

    Ask yourself this, do you really want to live in a world where everything you do is recorded and stored forever? Do you think it is really possible to manage anything if you are second guessed on even the most innocent statement?

    As I wrote earlier, I am very happy that the CIA tape was destroyed. I just hope it really is. I do not care if the Whitehouse keeps all its emails. I expect that they should comply with the letter of whatever law applies. If they have not done that, it becomes a legal matter. Otherwise, just let it alone.

    Posted by: Jack at January 18, 2008 1:55 AM
    Comment #243229
    Yes NOW, because of SOX regulations, email archiving solutions are becomming very popular and the technology exists to meet this need. In 2001-2003 the technology wasn’t there and it was NOT standard operating procedure.

    I started reading this thread earlier tonight, but I wasn’t in position to add my thoughts earlier. What the heck do you mean the technology didn’t exist 6 years ago? The technology has been in existence for at least 30 years. SMTP has been defined since 1989 and X.400 is even older. Then when you talk about file handling, Unix has been around for nearly 40 years.

    Your link to a Symantec product is laughable considering the Internet is based on Unix. Certainly Microsoft and products that support them has made some inroads, the net is still 90 percent Unix. You say you’ve been in the IT field since the 80’s, so then you should know better than to point to a Symantec product. While they make a very popular anti-virus program, they garnish the same respect as Microsoft in the Net world. While I’m sure the Symantec product tries to be more user friendly, there are many older Unix based products available that will do the same.

    When a person deletes their e-mail, you do not automatically assume that it is deleted from the mail server, it doesn’t matter if they are using POP3, IMAP4 or something else. It all depends on how the enterprise or ISP chooses to handle their e-mail accounts and backups. While e-mail servers aren’t where my work focus is, I know that if the e-mails required are not available from the White House, it isn’t because the technology wasn’t available.

    Posted by: Cube at January 18, 2008 3:59 AM
    Comment #243231
    Ask yourself this, do you really want to live in a world where everything you do is recorded and stored forever? Do you think it is really possible to manage anything if you are second guessed on even the most innocent statement?

    Odd statements considering you have defended this White House use of data mining. Nevertheless this is the world the President agrees to live in when he runs for office, and this President has left himself open to be second-guessed on many things.

    Posted by: Cube at January 18, 2008 4:06 AM
    Comment #243232

    A February 26, 2001, memorandum from Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, to White House staff stated:

    e-mail is no different from other kinds of documents. Any e-mail relating to official business therefore qualifies as a Presidential record. All e-mail to your official e-mail address is automatically archived as if it were a Presidential record, and all e-mail from your official e-mail address is treated as a Presidential record unless you designate otherwise. … [I]f you happen to receive an e-mail on a personal e-mail account that otherwise qualifies as a Presidential record, it is your duty to ensure that it is preserved and filed as such by printing it out and saving it or by forwarding it to your White House e-mail account.25

    The February 2001 White House Staff Manual similarly stated:

    Federal law and EOP policy require the preservation of electronic communications that relate to official business and that are sent or received by EOP staff. As a result, you must only use the authorized e-mail system for all official electronic communications.26

    Posted by: Cube at January 18, 2008 4:15 AM
    Comment #243238

    Cube

    I have some envelopes on my desk. In the right hand corder they say, “Official Business, Penalty for Private Use $300.” If I put my passport photos in that envelop, is it illegal since I sometimes use my passport to support official duties?

    There are lots of rules like that and they all are important, but they are not all equally important.

    So maybe whoever violated that rule you are talking about should pay the $300 and we can be done with this.

    It is impossible in any organization to follow all the rules all the time. When unions want to stop work w/o calling a strike they can do so just by following all the rules very precisely. What we have here is an example of a reasonalbe action. The same kind that you do every day. The same kind the next president’s officials will do every day. If it turns out to have been a mistake, we need to bring the reasonable rule to bear.

    Democrats have just become retentive about these things and have forgotten the reasonablness doctrine.

    Things sometimes get lost and mistakes are made. Hillary probably remembers this from the Rose Law Firm record fiasco. I am sure Obama now considers his drug use a mistake. These things happen.

    Posted by: Jack at January 18, 2008 5:20 AM
    Comment #243239

    Ok, Cube, please tell me the Unix configuration that existed in 2000 that intercepted all mail as it entered or exited the perimiter of the network and maintained a copy of that email in a separate storage area (WORM) so that you don’t depend upon the user to save email for later retrieval?

    The Symantec product was not developed by Symantec and is the leader in mail archiving solutions (before it was aquired, naturally). Professional bigotry aside, we aren’t talking SMTP here, we’re talking about data warehousing of email at the network perimiter. My point was about backup technology and what was common practice when.

    But, beyond all of that, this isn’t even the point! The email that fits the criteria for archiving should have been done in the forefront, I seriously doubt that the backups were designed to be the archiving system. I want to know why the system failed to save the email as required, where the breakdown occurred, not why some backups were recycled…

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 18, 2008 5:22 AM
    Comment #243241

    Rhinehold:
    You keeping defining this discussion in the context of your definition of the stated issue (and you even quote and reference yourself!); it’s not about your definition of “intercepting all mail as it entered or exit the perimeter…”; it’s about the fact that this administration was supposed to keep these records but they deleted them.

    You may choose to accept that reality or, as you’ve been doing, may choose to ignore the fact.

    Posted by: john trevisani at January 18, 2008 5:51 AM
    Comment #243243

    John,

    Please tell me, is the IT department required to be the archiver of the presidential documents via backups or through a more sophisticated system that should be in place to ensure that the messages are archived properly as the archiver designates?

    I think that is where the disconnct is. I don’t believe that the backup system is a good method of email archiving (it is horrible as a matter of fact) and is not viable for the purpose you are ascribing to it.

    The backup tapes were recycled. This is normal behavior for those types of systems. It was not, IMO, the responsibility of the backup system to maintain the presidential documents but a procedure that the archiver is suppose to act upon.

    You have yet to show me anything telling me that the administration was suppose to save those backup tapes. And further research is matching what I’ve tried to explain to you.

    As part of its disaster and continuity-of-operations processes, the White House regularly backs up the Executive Office of the President’s network on tape media, Payton said in her declaration. She added that the backups create snapshots that include the e-mail information stored on the network and in customer mailboxes at the time the backup was created.

    But any changes to the system made after the most recent snapshot would not be included on the backup tapes, which she said was consistent with industry standards. Payton also said recovering e-mail messages from backup tapes is “complex, labor-inte nsive and costly.”

    Tape backups are not a valid and dependable archiving solution. The administration moved, as much of the industry did, from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange in 2002. The earliest known email archiving solution that existed for Exchange is, I believe, from around 2000 and it was not dependable. It was also very costly, especially for the volume of email that the administration gets, because of limitations in storage. It is much cheaper now to ‘throw disks at the problem’.

    Today, there are a dozen or so email archiving solutions, the Symantec product being the only one listed in the ‘leader’ quadrant of Gerstner’s reports and for good reason. However, in 2003 it was not owned by Symantec and was just getting started, shaking out the bugs.

    I am unsure as to the method of email archiving that the administration used, but if we depending upon tape backups for our archiving method we are all just farting about while the real problem goes unobserved.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 18, 2008 6:37 AM
    Comment #243246

    Rhinehold:
    Again… this is not a technical issue.this is not a technical issue.this is not a technical issue.this is not a technical issue.

    Fact: Presidential records are to be maintained. (i’ve included, as many others have, links to information about Presidential record.

    Fact: Email is considered a Presidential record.

    Fact: Email was destroyed by this administration.


    Posted by: john trevisani at January 18, 2008 6:51 AM
    Comment #243247

    *sigh*

    John, you do not understand. Email was destroyed. Was that the email that was supposed to be saved or was that email already supposed to be archived?

    Since you refuse to acknowledge the technical issues that show how you are wrong about your assertion, I agree it is really pointless.

    It’s not about ‘technical’ it’s about understanding the topic you are debating. I have attempted to provide that understanding and you refuse to understand it.

    I undertand that documents are to be kept. That does not mean that backups are to be kept as well. That you refuse to understand the difference, and many other people will as well, means that we are going to be making accusations that are not accurate. It’s like the internet being a series of tubes, if you don’t understand the technology you are debating it makes it hard to talk about the issues surrounding it with any kind of intellegent statement.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 18, 2008 6:57 AM
    Comment #243248

    Rhinehold:
    Ah… i see, you’re getting hung up again on your definition of things. Tapes are backups, are backups considered to be a presidential record, etc…

    You assert that backups are not considered to be Presidential Records. Is that correct?

    i believe that Waxman is bringing up that very point. He believes they are, which is why he’s running this down. If you disagre with Waxman, bring it up with him.

    Assuming that you are the one and only resource for this source of information is a bit lofty. i would guess that if you did a survey of the posters/contributors/editors on this Blog, you’d probably come up with many, like me, that have significant technology experience. You’re not the only one out there you know. And if i had the time, i’d do a LinkeIn search.

    “I don’t know how technical you are, but…” LOL! i haven’t heard that one in a decade.

    Posted by: john trevisani at January 18, 2008 7:15 AM
    Comment #243250

    If Waxman is making the assertion that tape backups are Presidential Records, then he’s legally wrong, IMO. Althought I haven’t seen him making such an assertion myself, do you have a link to that?

    If we want to consider them as such going forward, he should seek to make that part of the law, but trying to retroactively apply that to the law seems underhanded unless he has something to build that upon, and I don’t see that in anything he has offered.

    Assuming that you are the one and only resource for this source of information is a bit lofty.

    I don’t believe I am assuming any such thing. I only say that the work that I do means I have alot of knowledge about the topic. I don’t think I’ve ever said that I’m the ONLY one that has that knowledge.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 18, 2008 7:32 AM
    Comment #243252

    It seems the key question here is whether what makes something a presidential record depends on the TECHNOLOGY or the CONTENT. Based on what has been posted here (for example the memo from Gonzales) I would wager that the law considers an e-mail a presidential record, regardless of whether it is preserved on a backup tape, a hard drive, a CD, etc.

    Posted by: Woody Mena at January 18, 2008 8:28 AM
    Comment #243263

    Rhinehold,

    Presidential records have been destroyed. Regardless of form.
    Destroying such records (tape, video) whatever, is illegal.
    Thanks for the CIS 101 course but it really has very little to do with the issue.
    The issue is the destruction of above mentioned records.

    Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at January 18, 2008 10:42 AM
    Comment #243264

    A tape backup is a copy of the original email, are you saying that copies of physical documents have to be saved as well? If someone makes 250 copies of a letter from the president, all 250 copies are considered part of the presidential record and they all must be archived?

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 18, 2008 10:55 AM
    Comment #243273

    John
    “consistent with industry best practices”

    What were the “industry best practices,” before 2003?

    Before October 2003, the White House recycled backup tapes, a step that reversed a policy of preservation put in place in the last year of the Clinton administration.

    The White House began saving all backup tapes in October 2003, a time marked by the beginning of the Justice Department’s CIA leak probe.

    Was it a mere coincidence that the White House reinstituted the recycling plan shortly after the CIA leak occurred? Or was it the White House just covering their tracks?

    I’m sorry, but I am a little confused. Did they “reinstitute the recycling plan” after October 2003 or did they reinstitute the “policy of preservation plan” after October 2003?
    In other words, did they start recycling (taping over) tapes “shortly after the CIA leak occurred,” or did they start “preserving” (not taping over) tapes “shortly after the CIA leak occurred?”

    If they started recycling them after Oct 2003, then yes, it does seem as if they may be trying to cover something up.
    But, if they started perserving them after Oct 2003, then it seems like it was probably an “oh crap, time to get updated” thing.

    Posted by: kctim at January 18, 2008 11:52 AM
    Comment #243300

    If we really want a change from government telling us YOYO (your on your own) we all must do some things.
    1. Vote for those who will help implement change,
    not only President but for Senate, House.
    All local and state elections.
    2. Help candiates you believe in with some money
    and with a few hours of your time.
    3. Talk to your friends and neighbors about
    those condidates and encourage them to VOTE.

    Posted by: C.T. Rich at January 18, 2008 3:08 PM
    Comment #243303

    Rhinehold,

    There were many well-known standard architectures in existence that would have accomplished what we are discussing. You would just have to let me know the IP space, multi-homed or not, routing protocol, how many end users there will be and their locations, and what the storage and security policies are and I could quickly draw you up a schematic and give you a quick configuration.

    You would not archive the e-mails on the perimeter, as that would defeat the purpose of securing them. You are right in indicating that backups are not the proper way to archive important information. But after perusing the Waxman report, the problem wasn’t with the White House IT department or the policies implemented. Evidently everything you said they couldn’t do they were doing. The problem seems to have been despite AG’s Gonzales warning against this and the White House Staff manual, White House staff were using outside e-mail accounts for official business. They were specifically using their RNC’s accounts.

    Posted by: Cube at January 18, 2008 4:07 PM
    Comment #243305
    It is impossible in any organization to follow all the rules all the time.

    Jack

    So your argument is, oops they made a mistake let’s move on. I’ve read your accounts on how you handle your employee’s; somehow I suspect you would demand more of them than that.

    So why are you so willing to give this White House a pass, oh never mind we all know the answer to that.

    Posted by: Cube at January 18, 2008 4:14 PM
    Comment #243307

    Rhinehold,

    I have a dumb question.

    Clear back in the 80’s when I was using my Tandy I was required to keep records, so I did. Just for shits and giggles I looked, yep, I still have those “tapes”. Of course I have nothing to read them with and I wouldn’t guarantee the quality of the data, but I kept a “paper trail” of everything back then.

    My question is: if I know that I’m required by law to keep certain records, what could possibly excuse the loss of said records?

    And I realize that email didn’t even exist then but for crying out loud, I still have Outlook email archived from the late 90’s that I can view now. But the biggy is that if you’re required by law to keep records then you MUST do so. PERIOD

    That at least appears to be the case here. What do you suppose burned in that recent capitol hill fire?

    Posted by: KansasDem at January 18, 2008 4:23 PM
    Comment #243311

    What law, prior to 2003, required email records be kept?
    What was to be recorded? Names? IPs? Complete copies of every email?
    By what means?
    For how long?

    I’d really like to know these things before I jump to any conclusions on the matter.

    Posted by: kctim at January 18, 2008 5:06 PM
    Comment #243314

    kctim:
    What law, prior to 2003, required email records be kept?
    Scroll up a bit…
    post# 243198

    Posted by: john trevisani at January 18, 2008 5:23 PM
    Comment #243316

    Thanks John. I have been looking over them and can not find the law that explains what is to be kept, by what means and for how long. I will keep reading through them though.

    Posted by: kctim at January 18, 2008 5:43 PM
    Comment #243319

    Golly, gosh, gee whiz, I just had an epiphany:

    The Bush administration has been totally forthcoming, we’re just too stupid to see it.

    Best president (and administration) ever!

    Why would we have ever thought otherwise?

    Thanks to KCTim and Rhinehold I saw the light!

    Now I can prepare for the second coming, I see it now: President Huckabee! He’ll lead us down the path to righteousness and voluntary taxation.

    Posted by: KansasDem at January 18, 2008 9:21 PM
    Comment #243320

    Oh, what does delete mean?

    http://tinyurl.com/23qkez

    I didn’t know what delete meant.

    Posted by: KansasDem at January 18, 2008 9:42 PM
    Comment #243321
    if I know that I’m required by law to keep certain records, what could possibly excuse the loss of said records?

    If you are required by law to keep certain records, the archiver, who is responsible for doing this, sets up a system to ensure that the records that need kept are and those that aren’t aren’t.

    If that archiver decides to use backup tapes as that archiving tool, he should be fired on the spot.

    There is a disconnect that apparently I’m not suppose to talk about because its technical (but more likely takes away from the view that this erasure of a backup tape is proof of something more nefarious).

    If the emails are missing from the archiving system, we should find out how and why. If we can find them in an older backup, great. But it is routine that backup tapes, used for the sole purpose of recovering data in a system loss and is point in time data, not a full record of email, are recycled after they are past a certain age.

    Restoring a backup WILL result in incomplete data recovery. That is why they are not used in archival systems.

    And if they are to be kept because they may retain a copy of a specific email, why are not all copies of any physical correspondence treated the same way?

    As for your epiphany, I suggest you keep trying, you’ve missed the mark by a half mile.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at January 18, 2008 9:44 PM
    Comment #243518

    Golly, gosh, gee whiz K-Dem.
    I only asked questions that any of you screaming “cover-up,” should be able to answer. You shouldn’t get pissed off at me because you can’t answer them.

    Posted by: kctim at January 22, 2008 12:25 PM
    Post a comment