As we decide whom to support in the presidential election, one issue has been ignored: What e-mail policies he or she will enforce to maintain...
As we decide whom to support in the presidential election, one issue has been ignored: What e-mail policies he or she will enforce to maintain an accurate archive, chain of command and reliable backup?
This shouldn’t be an issue, except for the current administration’s inability to manage a functioning archive or backup.
According to news reports, about 1 million of the White House’s e-mail messages have “gone missing.”
The problem began with a 2002 upgrade from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange. This would have gone smoothly, but the people in charge took this opportunity to dismantle the archiving system established by the previous president.
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Laws protecting White House e-mail make it a crime to threaten preservation of these archives. Beyond this, the individual administration has free rein with regard to procedure.
So if the president’s staff members want to assign file names to individual messages and save them as .pst files on White House servers, as they now do, no one can stop them. That is, until the next president takes office, finds the system doesn’t work and needs to create his or her own from scratch.
(It could be worse. Some agencies have employees screen messages, printing out the ones they deem important and putting them into a file folder.)
I know the three remaining candidates are busy addressing the really important questions. But sometime before the fall, they will need to tell us how they will develop a comprehensive e-mail archive and backup system that will allow easy search and retrieval of future public records.
As a bonus, they can tell us they believe in technology’s ability to make tasks easier and are comfortable in its use.
Private companies know how to “live within the law” when it comes to archived e-mail, where they can finesse the rules to their own advantage.
If they take a walk on the slightly illegal side, they need to either be prepared for the consequences or just not get caught. In any case, the direction as to what rules are followed or ignored will come from the top.
The White House situation is the same, but different. Here, the “top” is occupied by a president who admits that he avoids using e-mail because “I don’t like you guys reading my personal stuff.”
If I thought it would do any good I would cue up the patriotic music as a backdrop to narration about the importance of history and the remarkable ability of technology to capture details that will enlighten future generations. I could add a verse how a president — as the ultimate public servant — has no “personal stuff.”
If you like everything else about a certain candidate, his or her regressive stand on e-mail archiving won’t swing your vote. But even if this isn’t a Category A issue, it would be nice if the question gets asked at least once before this is over.
You can contact Charles Bermant at email@example.com. Type Inbox in the subject field. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.