Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Comically Primitive

When the Bush administration took office, it decided to replace the Lotus Notes-based e-mail system used under the Clinton Administration with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. The transition broke compatibility with the old archiving system, and the White House IT shop did not immediately have a new one to put in its place.

Instead, the Bush White House instituted a comically primitive system called "journaling," in which "a White House staffer or contractor would collect from a 'journal' e-mail folder in the Microsoft Exchange system copies of e-mails sent and received by White House employees." These would be manually named and saved as ".pst" files on White House servers.

One of the more vocal critics of the White House's e-mail-retention policies is Steven McDevitt, who was a senior official in the Bush White House IT shop from September 2002 until he left in disgust in October 2006. He points out what would be obvious to anyone with IT experience: the system wasn't especially reliable or tamper-proof.

a feature, not a bug

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