Feb 20, 2008

When will they learn?

I recently finished reading "Where Have All the EMails Gone?" by David Gewirtz, Editor-in-Chief at Zatz Publishing. Like Pete Seeger, who asked a bunch (pun intended) of questions about missing flowers, Mr. Gewirtz asks a lot of questions about missing White House e-mails; a fact that was brought to the national attention in April 2007 during the Supreme Court justice firing inquiries. In his book, Mr. Gewirtz doesn't ask his questions to promote a political platform, rather he asks the questions as an information technologist, wondering what actually happened. He plays Internet domain sleuth and explains how he uncovered information about the Republican National Committee (RNC.org) and GWB34.com e-mail accounts that were used in lieu of White House (EOP.gov) e-mail. He also explores the policies that directed White House staffers to use non-White House communication channels for certain types of activity. Using publicly available testimony and press conference transcripts, he investigates how e-mail from the White House may have disappeared. Mr. Gewirtz also speculates on the potential dangers of these policies and practices which, at times, may seem borderline hysterical unless you've had to deal with securing e-mail content and seen some of shenanigans that go on.

Politics aside, "Where Have All the EMails Gone?" is an good case study of what not to do if you want to keep e-mail secure, auditable, and recoverable. The book is an easy read and is peppered with repeated disclaimers of political bias by proving that this problem is non-partisan having started in a Democratic White House and has come to our attention in a Republican White House.

The most important lesson is detailed in Chapter 13 - that a sound e-mail system is about technology and policies:

There are, however, technical issues and concerns, plus security issues and concerns that blast through the political rhetoric and even party affiliation.

Many of the questions posed in this chapter could be asked about any e-mail environment and is not exclusive to the White House or its policies. If you're in charge of managing an e-mail platform, I recommend that you read this book. Mr. Gewirtz adds value to his book by offering additional material (e.g., interviews, article links, and resource links) where readers can go to find out more about e-mail technology, practices, and policies.

By the way, this is an ongoing story, and you can keep up with the latest installments via a RSS feed link on the "Where Have All the EMails Gone?" web site.

1 comment:

Mika Heinonen said...

I think Dilbert is working at the White House :)