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Boston City Government Discovers Email Retention

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the hey-those-stacks-of-emails-take-up-a-lot-of-space dept.

Government 184

An anonymous reader writes "The Boston Globe, covering a battle to unseat the 16-year incumbent mayor, has found out that the city has no email retention policy. A city official who receives hundreds of emails a day was found to have only 18 emails in his mailbox. The city has enabled journaling on its Exchange server in response. The Globe also notes that they had to curtail requests for emails under the Open Records law because for each mailbox, 'City officials estimated they would charge $5,000 for six months worth of email.'"

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184 comments

No retention? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29404709)

Okay, but.. are they obliged to have a policy?

Re:No retention? (5, Informative)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404729)

Yes, I know where I am, but if you'd RTFA:

According to the Massachusetts secretary of state, the state public records law requires municipal employees to save electronic correspondence for at least two years, even if the contents are of "no informational or evidential value." The only e-mails that can be deleted are those containing completely inconsequential information, such as spam or questions about lunch orders.

Re:No retention? (1)

Smooth and Shiny (1097089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405005)

Being from Massachusetts myself, I can tell you that Tom "Mumbles" Menino likes to run a tight ship. When someone who works in his office is found to have voted against him, they are fired. It's happened to people who've been working in the Mayor's Office for as long as 20 years. He's a scumbag and needs to seriously get out of the job of ru(in)ning the city.

Thing that gets me is... every re-election, all of Boston's firefighters would throw their weight behind him in support of his bid to run again (despite his promise to only hold office for 4 years when he first ran) and always help him get elected again. Then he does the same thing to them; breaks the promise of newer and better contracts for those brave men and women who fight fires. This year, however, they've apparently woken up and are supporting challengers.

Re:No retention? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405825)

No one ever said that a firefighter had to be smart. All that is required is that he is ballsy, understands how fires work, how to control fires, and is able and willing to obey orders.

I speak as a graduate of the U.S. Navy's finest fire fighting training. ;^)

Re:No retention? (0, Flamebait)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406023)

You also need to be certified as a First Responder, because quite often you're the first on the scene and that means you're the first to provide medical support.

So, yes, firefighters DO need to be smart. Go figure such an ignorant statement would come from somewhere in the Navy.

Re:No retention? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406095)

Excuse me - I was certified as an EMT in 1980. Again, you don't need to be exceedingly smart to be an EMT. A certain APTITUDE is required, and moderate intelligence, but not enough to qualify as particularly "smart".

Go blow smoke somewhere else, alright?

Re:No retention? (1)

Quothz (683368) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406145)

You also need to be certified as a First Responder, because quite often you're the first on the scene and that means you're the first to provide medical support. So, yes, firefighters DO need to be smart.

The ability to take training does not imply "smart", at least not in the way I understand the word. In my experience, the average firefighter is just about average in intelligence, or perhaps slightly above-average. A few are very smart, and a few are dumber'n rocks. This seems t'be true in virtually every profession that isn't pure manual labor but doesn't require much in the way of critical thinking.

Re:No retention? (5, Funny)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406109)

No one ever said that a firefighter had to be smart. All that is required is that he is ballsy, understands how fires work, how to control fires, and is able and willing to obey orders.

I speak as a graduate of the U.S. Navy's finest fire fighting training. ;^)

With all due respect, Navy firefighters have it easy. All you need to put out the fire is a corkscrew long enough to bore through the hull.

Re:No retention? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406239)

ROFLMAO - good one.

Problem is, when I've sunk my home, my working space, my battle station, my EVERYTHING, where do I put my sorry dumb ass? Oooops!

I'll admit that maybe we do have it easier than civilian firefighters. We drill, and we drill, and we drill. With all the practice, directed by sadistic SOB's in officer's uniforms, there isn't a square inch of the ship that we aren't intimate with. A dozen men on each team with that sort of training means we can handle a lot of stuff that a civilian would walk away from.

But, again, where would we walk to?

Re:No retention? (1)

blitzkrieg3 (995849) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405217)

According to the Massachusetts secretary of state, the state public records law requires municipal employees to save electronic correspondence for at least two years, even if the contents are of "no informational or evidential value." The only e-mails that can be deleted are those containing completely inconsequential information, such as spam or questions about lunch orders.

So what? It shouldn't be left up to the end user to decide whether the email should be retained or not. Who's to say that a message titled, "Here's the $20k bribe for the big dig contract" doesn't contain spam or other "completely inconsequential information"?

Re:No retention? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29405437)

Like, "Would you like twenty thousand dollar dressing with your Big Dig salad this Friday for lunch?"

Re:No retention? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405601)

must be nice to live in a world without SOX!!

At corporations, ALL non-spam email must be kept for every employee... even the delete stuff for a certain period of time BY LAW. Spam is usually an exception because it's deleted by an automated process BEFORE the end user sees it... hence no action was ever taking on it. Everything else must be retained for 2,7,10, or more years.

Re:No retention? (3, Insightful)

darth dickinson (169021) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406199)

Yeah... haven't you heard? Laws are for the "little people", not for the all-knowing, all-caring Government.

Re:No retention? (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406211)

Generally speaking, employees shouldn't be able to delete email or other communication period. They should be able to remove it from their personal inbox, to prevent clutter, but SOX retention should be getting handled at the server level. Employees shouldn't be handling their own data retention at all.

Re:No retention? (2, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404921)

In the county government (not in Massachusetts) where I work, there is no standard policy. A draft policy was circulated not long ago that would mandate a standard retention policy of 90 days. Some agencies have different policies by law (child support must hold onto e-mail for I think five years, and the district attorney and public defender's offices must keep case-related e-mail in perpetuity), but the 90-day cap was allegedly intended to balance discovery and e-mail storage requirements. Part of the policy suggested that PSTs, forwarding to other e-mail accounts, and saving messages locally should be disabled; the response from one agency was that they should prepare to start spending more on printers, because a lot of material was going to end up in hard copy, especially for those of us working on projects that can take as much as three years to complete. AFAICT, no IT staff were consulted before the draft was written.

Re:No retention? (3, Insightful)

mantis2009 (1557343) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405013)

Working in archives as a historian in the past five years, I can tell you that email retention is just the tip of the iceburg. Many, many times I spoke with officials who told me that all of the "old" files I needed were "on the website." I was looking for files and forms produced in the 1990s and 2000s. Very frequently, the files were not "on the website" where they should have been. They were overwritten, or lost in a website redesign, or they were never online to begin with. Sometimes, I could find the file I wanted by using the Internet Archive, but more often, the files were simply lost.
I think the period between 1995 and 2015 will be remembered as a dark age for recordkeeping of all kinds.

Re:No retention? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405407)

I think the period between 1995 and 2015 will be remembered as a dark age for recordkeeping of all kinds.

Are you kidding? Between Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Bog Knows What Else, there is so much crap out there that historians will spend lifetimes perusing through 'information'.

And the best part about it is that you don't have to be stuck in some drafty basement near the "Beware of Leopard" sign. You can do all of your 'research' in the comfort of Starbucks or whatever wifi connected place your heart desires. The volume of information will dwarf what the generations before had to work with. Nearly unlimited bytes of data. A field day.

Oh, you wanted useful stuff. Sorry. My bad.

Re:No retention? (1)

mantis2009 (1557343) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405613)

I'm not convinced that all the data stored on social media will be around in 10 years time, much less 5 years. Look at the track record: Geocities is being deleted as we speak. Does Friendster have data from 2004 still archived and ready for viewing in 2014? How many thousands of Myspace profiles from early 2009 are already gone? Data on the internet is inherently temporary. I think maybe a decade from now we'll have accepted this problem and worked out some kind of new data retention solution. Until then, we're throwing away all sorts of records that we used to keep.

Re:No retention? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405697)

And when facebook closes down in 2014? They have no retention policy, they have no open file formats for exporting to archivists.... when they go bankrupt and the power company turns out the lights that information's just gone. Poof.

It's all electronic and there are no mandates to keep information in useful formats. If they're following Google's model then they don't even keep "backup" tapes they just keep information in three or more redundant parts of their cluster when one box fails they trash it and install a new node that rebuilds. When the bills stop being paid and the system is farmed out for scrap pieces those RAIDS full of data are totally useless.

Re:No retention? (2, Interesting)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405661)

it's not about IT staff it's about what the business and lawyers need.. sorry. At my company we had a 90 day retention for email inboxes and after that it had to be filed in "retention" folders with the purpose marked or in the case of sales, they probably printed the materials out and put it in a physical file folder for contract purposes.

The 90 day camp is cute and common because people think by deleting everything they're spared discovery/FIOA requests.. but that's very not true. If a project takes 3 years then the entire correspondence must be kept for the 3 years, plus the historical period after the project is done. Electronic cleanup doesn't exempt you from discovery or FIOA requests for information you are obligated to keep. Filing stuff in paper means that a clever lawyer can compel the court to shut you down while they dig through your file cabinets for information..and it automatically puts you in contempt-of-court should a judge order 91 day old emails produced (like what's going with Apple vs. Pystar)

Important emails (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404761)

Alarmed by the deletion of e-mails that could have contained potentially significant information, administration officials recently instituted a new electronic document retention policy and temporary âoejournalingâ(TM)â(TM) program, to keep copies of every e-mail sent and received by every city employee.

Considering all the news about politicians and their "extracurricular activities", I just had this image of a bunch of emails that were sent and received from escorts and 20 something year old girlfriends or boyfriends. Meaning, they are hiding something and that's why they're deleting them.

Yes, I am very cynical when it comes to politicians.

Re:Important emails (2, Funny)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404805)

Actually, it was probably a bunch of PianoCat videos, 9/11 tribute chain letters and Obama-llama hate mail.

Re:Important emails (4, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404835)

Massachusetts has a remarkably good record of producing top-notch crooks in our political ecosystem. It is not surprising that they evolved far enough to realize that email is not their friend in court.

setenv $EMAIL_STORAGE = /dev/null; export $EMAIL_STORAGE

Re:Important emails (4, Funny)

McDutchie (151611) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405061)

That is the weirdest mix of sh and csh syntax I've ever seen.

Re:Important emails (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405267)

There's a sh syntax?! I just thought the developers all suffered from dyslexia.

Re:Important emails (2, Funny)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405503)

Oh, so that's what my scripts won't run.

Yeah, I was feeling a little nostalgic for csh, which is ironic, considering I hardly ever used it and couldn't remember much syntax. I and wasn't about to refresh my memory for the sake of making a funny, so I fudged it.

Re:Important emails (4, Funny)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405737)

Oh, so that's what my scripts won't run.

That is the weirdest mix of English and Englicsh syntax I've ever seen.

And this is different from any other state . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29405175)

How?

Re:Important emails (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29404875)

Its not just politicians. Where I used to work, a disgruntled IT person forwarded emails between an "escort" and a company director to all 6000 company employees. jpg attachments and all.

Re:Important emails (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404979)

Its not just politicians. Where I used to work, a disgruntled IT person forwarded emails between an "escort" and a company director to all 6000 company employees. jpg attachments and all.

Could be a new reality show. "When IT Attacks"

Hey, c'mon now, if "The Office" can make it...

Re:Important emails (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405213)

Its not just politicians. Where I used to work, a disgruntled IT person forwarded emails between an "escort" and a company director to all 6000 company employees. jpg attachments and all.

Could be a new reality show. "When IT Attacks"

Hey, c'mon now, if "The Office" can make it...

Or Salmon Days! Wait a minute...

Re:Important emails (5, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405113)

You know, if it were just prostitution and extramarital affairs, I wouldn't care if their emails were deleted. Those types of personal vices are rather inconsequential to being a good civil servant. I know that the Republicans saw it as a huge victory when Clinton was impeached basically for having an extramarital affair (and don't tell me that it was for perjury; it was his personal life that was on trial), but, in the grand scheme of things, personal infidelity is probably not the biggest "crime" a public official can commit. I'd choose a president who respects civil liberties & human rights and acts in the interest of the public, but happens to be a philander, over a president who is completely devoted to his wife, but is willing to step on civil liberties, support torture, or sell out the American public to corporate interests. Likewise, I'm much less concerned about a president who lies about his private life than one who lies about justifications for war.

So, no, I'm not particularly concerned about politicians hiding emails to their girlfriends/boyfriends. We should be so lucky if that's all they were hiding. It's more the potential bribes, nepotism/cronyism, and backroom deals that I'm worried about. Those are the type of things that actually conflict with good governance—in other words, government corruption.

Re:Important emails (3, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405235)

You know, if it were just prostitution and extramarital affairs, I wouldn't care if their emails were deleted. Those types of personal vices are rather inconsequential to being a good civil servant.

It is a question of trust. If they will not keep their word to a person they have pledged their life to, and who is (or should be) the closest to them in the world, then they may be lying to me too...

That said, I don't really trust a damn one of them...

Re:Important emails (0, Offtopic)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405467)

to a person they have pledged their life to

The statistics disagree with you:

50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce ( http://www.divorcerate.org/ [divorcerate.org] )
Average length of a marriage is 8 years ( http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-97.pdf [census.gov] )

Re:Important emails (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405567)

to a person they have pledged their life to

The statistics disagree with you: 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce ( http://www.divorcerate.org/ [divorcerate.org] ) Average length of a marriage is 8 years ( http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-97.pdf [census.gov] )

You just made my point. You pledge "Until Death do us part" but some just don't keep that pledge. And of those that have already proven not to keep that pledge, they are more likely not to again...

Re:Important emails (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405679)

I'm not saying that it's not a reflection on their personal character. Sure, if I could choose a president who represented the interest of the people and was a good family man, then I would. But given the selection available to us, I'd settle for just the first criteria. And if we're placing our politicians under public scrutiny (as we should), the focus should be on how they're fulfilling their public duty or any potential criminal conduct, not on personal matters which have no bearing on their role as a civil servant.

For instance, I think littering is a despicable behavior and shows laziness and a lack of consideration for others. However, I wouldn't waste tax dollars to impeach a public official for littering. It's just not worth the resources when there are much bigger problems that need addressing. I would even go so far as to say that such an impeachment proceeding is a distraction from the real issues, like bad public policies, or serious corruption.

Re:Important emails (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29405733)

Mark Sanford made a big deal about being a "cheap" guy who slept on a cot in his office when he was in Washington DC. The implication was that he was frugal with taxpayer's money, too. But it turns out he regularly flew business class on the taxpayer's dime and on trips he shouldn't have been taking, to Buenos Aires for instance. I think this is relevant because he was the one who made a big deal about being "cheap", it was supposedly part of his philosophy of governance. It's part of what got him elected in the first place.

Re:Important emails (0, Troll)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405759)

Glad you believe that but it's distraction by the "right". Rather than address issues like relaxing reporting requirements for banks and investment firms for 20 years, rather than discuss the merits of continual corporate buyouts and the affect of corporate raiders on long term manufacturing base (oh wait, the fat cats got their money and we lost?) we worry about if the President diddled the secretary.

where was our moral outrage at heads of investment banks that needed to be bailed out... but their "private" citizens so it didn't matter? Where was Congressional outrage on their lavish lifestyles that lasted more than 5 minutes? People that read the Bible are blessed with being Rich... and if you don't live "morally" you deserve to be Poor... and Poor are poor because their immoral or not moral enough to be rich... that's the US believe system in a nutshell.

Re:Important emails (0, Troll)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405473)

I know that the Republicans saw it as a huge victory when Clinton was impeached basically for having an extramarital affair (and don't tell me that it was for perjury; it was his personal life that was on trial),

I actually think the Republicans had a legitimate complaint about the lying-under-oath part; Clinton did effectively perjur himself. Of course, the series of investigations that put him into that position were completely frivolous. And I say that as someone who still thinks Clinton was one of the best presidents we've ever had (with Bush being the worst. Ever.)

Re:Important emails (1)

Jay Clay (971209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405703)

Actually, no he didn't. Perjury has two key parts: (1) lying under oath - the one you're talking about, and (2) the lie affects the outcome of the case. While he did lie under oath, it didn't affect the outcome of the case.

Re:Important emails (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405849)

That's an interesting point. I actually wasn't aware of that second requirement. In that case I think even a president (or governor) has some basic right to privacy (e.g. a reporter can't install spy cameras in the President's bathroom or bedroom just because he's a public figure), which justifies his not answering honestly about questions prying into his personal life—and that will go into public records.

I mean, he did a stupid thing to lie, as that turned even many democrats against him. But the entire proceedings seemed like a witch hunt.

Re:Important emails (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405983)

He lied in the middle of a sexual harassment case about ever previously having sex with other employees. That was certainly material to the case, and had he been successful there was a good chance Jones would have lost.

It was not lying about smoking pot that got him in trouble, it was lying about having sex with Monica Lewinsky in the middle of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Whether or not he had sex with other employees was an important point in the case, and he had good reason to lie about it.

That is perjury, it was the basis of his contempt of court citations, and it was the basis of his impeachment. The reason he voluntarily gave up his Arkansas law license for 5 years was as part of an agreement to drop the investigation into the perjury charge.

I'm really not sure how anyone can say it isn't perjury, as all the evidence says otherwise.

I the impeachment may have turned into a witch hunt, but perjury is a very, very serious offense, and the last person in the world who should get away with perjury is the President of the United States.

Re:Important emails (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406267)

Even Lewinski claims they never had sex. She gave him a hummer, and for some inexplicable reason Republicans think that's where babies come from. But there's not a single case of a woman becoming pregnant from performing fellatio. He, therefore, didn't have sex with her, and thus wasn't lying. Let's say he wasn't fellated, let's say she gave him a handjob... would you still say he lied?

Re:Important emails (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406205)

It's only a lie if fellatio can produce offspring. Sex is sex. Blowjobs are blowjobs. I don't think he lied. They just asked him the wrong question.

Re:Important emails (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405915)

Just going by the Wikipedia definition, mind you, but according to it the matter simply needs to be material to the judicial proceeding. I.e. lying about your age is not perjury, unless your age is a key element in the case. Then it is perjury.

As it was a sexual harassment case and Clinton having sexual relations with other employees is evidence that he had done such things in the past, Clinton had good reason to lie about it as it could influence the outcome of the case.

It was, therefore, purjery. He was cited with contempt of court for it, but he eventually made a deal with the independant counsel whereby he agreed to suspend his Arkansas law license for five years in order to end the investigation. The IC dropped the investigation, and Clinton ended up being suspended from the US Supreme Court bar as an automatic result of the Arkansas suspension.

Jones's case was dismissed because she failed to show damages, but Clinton ended up settling for $850,000 to avoid further appeals.

Re:Important emails (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406025)

Impeachment trials are a simple vote by the senate.

Apart from that, there is no right to due process. If the senate says you're out, then you're out no matter how innocent you are.

Which is probably one of the many checks and balances the framers put into the Big C.

Re:Important emails (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406029)

Actually, no he didn't. Perjury has two key parts: (1) lying under oath - the one you're talking about, and (2) the lie affects the outcome of the case. While he did lie under oath, it didn't affect the outcome of the case.

IAAL and quite familiar with the definition of perjury, and the arguments over whether he lied about a material fact, which is why I put in an "effectively." I have also read the grand jury and deposition transcript excerpts; he dances at the edge of perjury several times, and in my opinion goes over it at least once or twice.

Re:Important emails (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405751)

I think they ultimately did have legal grounds to impeach him. So the act of impeachment was not illegal. But they basically got him on a technicality.

It's like if you outed a gay public official during a time of homophobic public sentiments and bring him to trial for that. He knows that if he admits to being gay, his political career is over. And with all the media attention, attacks on his personal character, extra public scrutiny, etc., he lies under oath about being gay. So you find proof that he is gay and get him on perjury. Sure, you impeached him on legal grounds, but there were no grounds to place his sexual preference on trial in the first place, and he did nothing wrong to begin with.

Re:Important emails (2, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405819)

That's where Bush and Cheney won in spades because they kept their dealings as "executive rights" so nobody could get them in court to answer for things like Gitmo...they simply refused the summons and fired any DoJ officers that pushed them. They also used "executive privilege" to get out of several other related cases for them and their buddies. It was hilarious when a Republican President had to deal with Democrat controlled Congress "after Clinton" and the Democrats went out of their way to prove they weren't nasty, even when they had the President dead to rights for ACTUAL impeachment obstructing justice in the spying case and gitmo. BushCo benefited from the "but Clinton" defense in spades the last 2 years.

Obama really needs to issue an executive order to lock them (and their families, aids, hairdressers, etc) up until we get answers to some of those questions... after all the President has that right now and there's empty space in Gitmo soon for new political prisoners!

Re:Important emails (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406161)

I actually think the Republicans had a legitimate complaint about the lying-under-oath part; Clinton did effectively perjur himself

To be entirely accurate, he did not lie. Asked if he had sex with Lewinski he emphatically said "no." Sex is copulation, not what they did. You can't make babies doing what they did together. So one can only assume that Republicans don't understand what sex is.

Re:Important emails (1)

nbauman (624611) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405835)

in the grand scheme of things, personal infidelity is probably not the biggest "crime" a public official can commit.

Like Eliot Spitzer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliot_Spitzer [wikipedia.org] After Spitzer was forced out, he was replaced by David Patterson, a nice guy, whose main virtue was his ability to get along with the Republicans, who promptly paid him back by throwing the New York State legislature into chaos http://www.democracynow.org/2009/6/11/ny [democracynow.org] Tom Robbins said in the Village Voice that the exercise was paid for by billionaire Tom Golisano after Spitzer wouldn't agree to cut state taxes for billionaires. http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-07-01/columns/senate-coup-plotters-hidden-agenda/ [villagevoice.com]

Spitzer's name was exposed during a supposedly confidential investigation by Republican federal prosecutors http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Siegelman [wikipedia.org] As it turned out, they didn't have evidence of a crime to charge him with.

The supposed victim of this affair, Spitzer's wife, didn't want him to resign. Why should she? What good does it do her to have her husband lose his job?

I'd choose a president who respects civil liberties & human rights and acts in the interest of the public, but happens to be a philander, over a president who is completely devoted to his wife, but is willing to step on civil liberties, support torture, or sell out the American public to corporate interests.

Well the way the Republicans get away with destroying civil liberties, supporting torture, and selling the American public out to corporate interests is by distracting voters with sex scandals.

What amazes me is that supposedly intelligent people, like New York Times columnists, let the Republicans put this over on them twice (with Clinton and again with Spitzer). It's hard to believe that they're so stupid. I wonder if there's another reason.

Spitzer was a victim, BTW, of the indiscriminate financial reporting laws which give the attorney generals indiscriminate power to go after anyone they want, including the other party. The only consolation is that Spitzer played this game himself, so there is a defense of of being hoisted on his own petard.

Re:Important emails (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405853)

You know, if it were just prostitution and extramarital affairs, I wouldn't care if their emails were deleted. Those types of personal vices are rather inconsequential to being a good civil servant. I know that the Republicans saw it as a huge victory when Clinton was impeached basically for having an extramarital affair (and don't tell me that it was for perjury; it was his personal life that was on trial), but, in the grand scheme of things, personal infidelity is probably not the biggest "crime" a public official can commit. I'd choose a president who respects civil liberties & human rights and acts in the interest of the public, but happens to be a philander, over a president who is completely devoted to his wife, but is willing to step on civil liberties, support torture, or sell out the American public to corporate interests.

Or even to the interests of one or more foreign countries. Why should the President have to be married in the first place? Maybe his or her private life should be well private.

So, no, I'm not particularly concerned about politicians hiding emails to their girlfriends/boyfriends.

Though prostitutes on "expenses" is a different problem.

We should be so lucky if that's all they were hiding. It's more the potential bribes, nepotism/cronyism, and backroom deals that I'm worried about. Those are the type of things that actually conflict with good governance--in other words, government corruption.

Maybe a government made up entirely of single promiscuious bisexuals would be less corrupt... It's hard to see how it could possibly be more corrupt than some we have now.

Re:Important emails (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405907)

Some times it matters, I didn't care about Michael Duvall getting caught bragging about his indiscretions with some young thing in front of a open mike (even him being some family values republican). Until that some young thing is a lobbyist, we don't need another loophole where it is now OK to pay for the guys piece of ass, as long as that isn't her only job...

Re:Important emails (1)

nbauman (624611) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405971)

You know, if it were just prostitution and extramarital affairs, I wouldn't care if their emails were deleted. Those types of personal vices are rather inconsequential to being a good civil servant. I know that the Republicans saw it as a huge victory when Clinton was impeached basically for having an extramarital affair (and don't tell me that it was for perjury; it was his personal life that was on trial), but, in the grand scheme of things, personal infidelity is probably not the biggest "crime" a public official can commit. I'd choose a president who respects civil liberties & human rights and acts in the interest of the public, but happens to be a philander, over a president who is completely devoted to his wife, but is willing to step on civil liberties, support torture, or sell out the American public to corporate interests. Likewise, I'm much less concerned about a president who lies about his private life than one who lies about justifications for war.

So, no, I'm not particularly concerned about politicians hiding emails to their girlfriends/boyfriends. We should be so lucky if that's all they were hiding. It's more the potential bribes, nepotism/cronyism, and backroom deals that I'm worried about. Those are the type of things that actually conflict with good governance—in other words, government corruption.

false dichotomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29406179)

there are four possiblities
1. morally reprehsible; does what i like
2. morally reprehensible; doesn't do what i like
3. moral; does what i like
4. moral; doesn't do what i like.

i want option 3.

Re:Important emails (1)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406219)

Those types of personal vices are rather inconsequential to being a good civil servant.

the only problem with such vices is the possibility of blackmail influencing policy decisions. unfortunately, that is a big problem, because there is little reason to trust a given politician will put the public interest before his career.

Shouldn't be a surprise to anybody in Boston... (4, Interesting)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404777)

In the recent debate he claimed there was no evidence he was corrupt. I guess this show's it's 'cause he deletes most of it...

When confronted with the fact that he sold city property to two of his friends for really cheap, he said that it was "only two out of hundreds of deals". I guess it's OK to break the law if you only do it a couple percent of the time?

Best part? He's going to win again.

Seems to me that the bigger the city, the more stupid the voters are...

Re:Shouldn't be a surprise to anybody in Boston... (1, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404817)

Seems to me that the bigger the city, the more stupid the voters are...

one hallmark of success is considered moving out of the city.

Re:Shouldn't be a surprise to anybody in Boston... (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404867)

When confronted with the fact that he sold city property to two of his friends for really cheap, he said that it was "only two out of hundreds of deals". I guess it's OK to break the law if you only do it a couple percent of the time?

I wish he was Hungarian. I don't know of a single state property being sold without corruption involved since the Soviet army moved out.

Re:Shouldn't be a surprise to anybody in Boston... (1)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404887)

Seems to me that the bigger the city, the more stupid the voters are...

"How fortunate for leaders that men do not think"

Re:Shouldn't be a surprise to anybody in Boston... (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405279)

Seems to me that the bigger the city, the more stupid the voters are...

Didn't the US start off that only landowners could vote?

It's a matter of power, not intelligence (2, Insightful)

SideOfBacon (1106017) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405353)

Seems to me that the bigger the city, the more stupid the voters are...

You obviously don't understand how machine politics works. Voters are not dumb:

1. individuals allied with the incumbent receive substantial benefit and thus vote for the incumbent
2. those who are not allied are systematically disenfranchised

It's not a matter of dumb/smart, it's a matter of organized/unorganized. Those who are organized (the incumbent) wield significant power to ensure that those without power have difficulty organizing (and thus threatening their power).

Re:Shouldn't be a surprise to anybody in Boston... (1)

fumblebruschi (831320) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405691)

According to TFA (and I have also read this in the Boston newspapers many times over the years) Menino simply does not use email. So in his case there's nothing to save or delete.

I should say that in itself that doesn't mean he's hiding something. He is, after all, almost seventy. My dad doesn't use email either.

Re:Shouldn't be a surprise to anybody in Boston... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29406209)

The bigger the position, the more issues there are, while simultaneously the less attention voters can spare for each individual one. That automatically makes it really hard for a newcomer to unseat an incumbent - because, likewise, it's really hard to evaluate the new guy's stances on that same wide range of issues. That's why when you see turnover in a high position, it's usually due to one of three things: 1) lifetime term limit is up 2) massive massive scandal 3) they had different positions on a divisive hyped up issue such that enough voters felt they had to side with one against the other. The rest of the time, it's a bewildering flurry of nitpicking as each candidate tries to look competent while trying to "make mountains out of molehills" in attacks on the opposition, searching for some hot issue that will be enough to decide the election in their favor. And, psychologically, humans (both individually and as a group) are pretty bad at evaluating something complex like 5 candidates and their platforms on 60 issues - in fact, we've been known to have trouble beyond choosing between three two-variable choices. As a thought experiment, consider the last few big elections you've voted in; for each individual voter, it probably came down to only a small number of issues that were the deciding factor, didn't it? Even today, those tea party people, when you hear their actual comments in the crowd, are usually only there on *one* big issue, with the others sort of thrown in as an afterthought.

It scales up and down in scope too; consider elections for governors and presidents, and the approval process for federal supreme court judges and cabinet members. On the other end, at the small town level, it's usually blisteringly obvious whether someone is competent for a position after their first term is over, since the number of job duties and the number of locals is so small and the results so directly witnessed, so you tend to see either very long or very short careers there.

Retention is the BIG issue (5, Interesting)

redelm (54142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404833)

Since very little is monitored LIVE because it is extremely expensive, retention time of email, logs, etc. is crucial. Too long and you encourage witchhunts from the past, too short and you abet felonies.

The real problem is is that law makers (and enforcement) often think themselves above the law. They made/enforced it, so can change/ignore it. Worse, the punishments for such violations is almost always minor. "Whaddyou gonna doo 'bout it?"

A simple answer is to charge felony "obstruction of justice", and have the felony provisions remove from office. This is highly unlikely to happen for reasons of "good buddy" through to not causing excessive fear in the bureaucracy.

Re:Retention is the BIG issue (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405131)

Or you know a procmail script which automatically diverts one copy of an email to a storage mailbox and one to the recipient. Inconsequential emails can usually be weeded out fairly quickly later on if needed, and spam isn't that tough to remove via a filter if you don't have to do it immediately.

The only issue then is storage space and backups, which any decent IT department can handle given a reasonable amount of funding. And it's something that should be done either way.

Re:Retention is the BIG issue (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405199)

Since very little is monitored LIVE because it is extremely expensive, retention time of email, logs, etc. is crucial.

I don't see why it is crucial. Phonecalls aren't recorded. Paper mail isn't steamed open and photocopied. I don't really mind if official emails are retained, but mostly what it does is decrease efficiency by steering people away from email even when it would be the most efficient means of communication.

Re:Retention is the BIG issue (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405369)

Decrease efficiency -- YES, especially for malfeasance.

Officials hold offices and are doing public things. They have no right of privacy WRT offical acts. And ought not be doing non-offical acts on the public dime.

Re:Retention is the BIG issue (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405885)

paper mail is very legal. If you certify a document sent via "normal Mail" like many court summons, then it is legally binding that you received the document at that address. In the case of paper mail You would have a copy that was notarized and the post would have copy of the register if you paid for registered service, but "normal mail" is legally enough. Fax documents can be traced by the phone company (non-repudiation is one thing email doesn't do yet) that your fax called their fax. So if you press for a document faxed 9 months ago and legal retention is 1 year "lost in the mail" is not a valid defense a court will accept if it was to be retained.

The SEC is VERY clear that for business purposes like insider trading, contract negotiation and such that emails, slashdot posts, twitters, IMs going out of your business are all "relevant communications" that's why companies are absolutely paranoid about firewalls these days and ANY personal use of emails and such is strictly limited as much as possible. It's always ironic that running the city/state/country is never as important as running the smallest corporation!

Re:Retention is the BIG issue (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405939)

Err, registered mail and traced faxes prove that you sent SOMETHING. They say nothing about the contents.

See people mailing bricks and then showing USPS shipping receipts to PayPal.

Re:Retention is the BIG issue (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406059)

phones can be recorded at any-time, paper is "hard" evidence and any fraud going through federal mail is automatically a felony. Email has to be more difficult unless something is built into the system, and without a context, and history it isn't all that convincing. IE if whistle blower turns on him, a retained email you received isn't good evidence, unless we have a hard log somewhere that has the meaningful bits in it. If you record a call you have voice prints, and difficulty to have undetectable modifications to that recording...

Re:Retention is the BIG issue (2, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405365)

Originally, I felt that email for government should be retained, however there really does need to be a different consideration between formal and informal email ie. email that is a part of formal administrative functions and email that just represents informal communications.

The question is where exactly do you fit in email between old world snail mail and a conversation whether in person on via say voip. Very interesting when you compare voip to email, as they both represent digital electronic transmission via the vary same infrastructure the only difference is the formatting of those messages.

So really the question is whether all communications between politicians and private parties or government departments should be recorded or whether there is a substantive difference between formal and informal communications and only formal communications should be recorded and retained and informal communications non instructional, non informative and non directional should just be allowed to fade away.

New manning slot? (4, Insightful)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404905)

Everyone raise their equivalent electronic hands who thinks the City of Boston is going to increase manning for the IT staff to accommodate this increase in workload, scope, and new technology implementation?

No hands. Sucks to be an IT admin for the City of Boston about now.

Re:New manning slot? (1)

pushf popf (741049) | more than 4 years ago | (#29404951)

Everyone raise their equivalent electronic hands who thinks the City of Boston is going to increase manning for the IT staff to accommodate this increase in workload, scope, and new technology implementation? No hands. Sucks to be an IT admin for the City of Boston about now.

Nothing will happen for the near future. The city will say "We don't have enough money to implement this" (which is probably true) and ask for more money, which will be rejected. Eventually someone will get a court order, ordering them to comply with the law, and it will go around for a while, as they decide if it's cheaper to spend millions of dollars on an upgrade, whatever the court fines the city, or to take it out of the School Lunch program.

I'd give them another 10 or 20 years before this is implemented.

Re:New manning slot? (2, Interesting)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405181)

Not enough money? Give me a break. I can build a Linux box that runs MailScanner, stick it in front of whatever e-mail server they run, and have that box archive every single message. Throw in a few terabyte drives and the whole thing might come to $5-10K including my time. I consult to a Community Health Center and have built a fairly elaborate scripted system that archives emails for every single mailbox every night and rotates the archives in accordance with the health center's policies. I think I charged them something like a thousand dollars for that job.

It has nothing to do with not having enough money, and everything to do with incompetence. If they're not archiving email, what else aren't they archiving? How useful is it to have public disclosure laws when the systems are designed to avoid document archiving.

Re:New manning slot? (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405761)

It has nothing to do with not having enough money, and everything to do with arrogance, greed, and corruption.

FTFY

Re:New manning slot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29405507)

Money is tight, but seems the city had enough money for this [boston.com] , though.

Re:New manning slot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29405001)

How exactly does it require extra extra resources to STOP doing something?

Re:New manning slot? (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405561)

Retaining emails with backups is more costly than you think.

Re:New manning slot? (1)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406033)

Want to give us some details rather than an offhand comment?

Presumably the City already have some backup and archiving systems in place; how expensive is adding email archiving to that infrastructure?

Regardless of how expensive it might be, it is mandated by Massachusetts law.

Why tagged "republicans"??? (5, Informative)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405043)

Since 1930, every mayor of Boston has been a Democrat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mayors_of_Boston [wikipedia.org]

Re:Why tagged "republicans"??? (1)

roaddemon (666475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405087)

Shockingly, there have only been 5 mayors since 1950. Loyal city.

Re:Why tagged "republicans"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29405163)

Shockingly, there have only been 5 mayors since 1950. Loyal city.

Even more shocking, the one before that continued to be mayors for another 3 years after spending 5 month in jail.

Re:Why tagged "republicans"??? (4, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405255)

Shockingly, there have only been 5 mayors since 1950. Loyal city.

"Loyal" is not the word I would choose.

Re:Why tagged "republicans"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29405343)

Shockingly, there have only been 5 mayors since 1950. Lazy city.

There. Fixed that for ya.

This is why term limits are needed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29405119)

The attitude of an entrenched incumbent like Menino is: I've been here long enough to know what works, the systems are working for me, and nobody important (e.g. governor, head of teacher's union) has raised this issue to me face to face, so there is no need to review or upgrade anything. He'll spend the city's money on stuff where he sees a direct political or personal payoff.

For example: a couple years ago he commissioned an architectural study for a brand new city hall on prime waterfront property, because the current building is often mocked for its idiosyncratic architecture. I'm sure he smiled every night as he thought of tourists from around the world looking up at the gleaming "Thomas M. Menino City Hall". Guess who would be picking up the tab. (The project is currently on hold because of the recession).

The advantages of incumbency are huge. The mayor controls the city's resources and can withhold them from the districts of city councilors who publicly oppose him; and of course, he can fire anyone who works for the city of Boston who creates problems for him. He's got his name prominently displayed on every development project in town ("Getting the job done... Thomas M. Menino, Mayor"). Thus, the arc of his tenure has been about consolidation of power and marginalization of potential opponents. Also, the newspaper business has declined for the past ten years or so coinciding with the rise of the Internet, so newspapers have fewer resources to spare on investigative journalism. Of course, all this is not unique to Boston, but applies to most any long-time incumbent mayor.

Re:This is why term limits are needed (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405153)

It's more than that, corrupt politicians in the US have pretty much always gotten more done than ones doing things legally. Never has the US government been so responsive to the citizenry than during the period where the boss system was in force. It was beyond a doubt incredibly corrupt, but at least they got you a job if you didn't have one, sent a doctor if you weren't well and actually considered the people's well being, you just had to show up on election day, hell they'd even drive you there and provide free drinks.

Obviously, it's horribly corrupt and has serious issues, but they did get a lot done, and try getting the government to give a damn about you now. Not going to happen as long as the Republicans are trying their hardest to stop living wages and health care and the Democrats are so horribly incompetent.

Re:This is why term limits are needed (1)

dotfile (536191) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405211)

You make a good point, but it's not like that's a reason to tolerate the corruption. Benito Mussolini finally made the trains in Italy run on time, but I think most would agree that the benefits of his time at the helm were outweighed by the more negative impact.

Re:This is why term limits are needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29405609)

According to Ernest Hemingway, who went to Italy as a newspaper reporter in the thirties, the "trains run on time" line was propaganda. He said Italian train schedules were "a laughable fiction". So Mussolini didn't even have that going for him.

Re:This is why term limits are needed (1)

fumblebruschi (831320) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405749)

It's more than "idiosyncratic". It has been voted in several international polls as the single ugliest building in the whole world.

I haven't seen every building in the world, but City Hall is certainly the ugliest building I have ever seen. I hate it, and so does everyone else I have ever spoken to about it. I would happily endorse any amount of government corruption to get rid of that thing. Having it gone would improve my life, and I wouldn't care how many of Menino's friends got rich off the project.

Seriously, $5000? (1)

e9th (652576) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405269)

City officials estimated they would charge $5,000 for six months worth of e-mail for each employee

How can it possibly cost $5000 to retrieve six months of email? Does this include hiring scribes to transcribe the mail onto parchment scrolls?

Re:Seriously, $5000? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405453)

That's not that far fetched, you have to have someone go through them, information on Employee contracts have to be redacted as well anything HIPPA or ADA related, on-going negotiations ect. There are a lot of laws concerning what can be made public and a lot of conflicts between different laws.

Re:Seriously, $5000? (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405485)

Well, first you have to read each email to make sure it doesn't make the city look bad, and if it does if you can just rewrite it to sound better (for clarity, of course), and if you can't do that, then you have to delete it, and all this 'proof-reading' takes manpower. And then, of course, there's the bribes that have to be paid...

End users can't enforce retention (4, Insightful)

galactic-ac (1197151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405483)

I fail to see why it's relevant that an individual end user had only 18 emails when he receives hundreds daily. I would love to have this individual in my organization, less chance of corrupt Outlook .pst files and less to backup from the workstation. Retention policies should have nothing whatsoever to do with what recipients retain in their local mail stores. Retention, compliance, and backup policies are enforced at the server.

Re:End users can't enforce retention (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405817)

Yes. Done at the server. By an admin who answers to a manager who answers to someone who answers to someone who answers to the Mayor. Are you telling me that Menino doesn't know what's going on? "Hmm, those hundreds of emails from yesterday are gone ... I wonder what could have happened."

interesting fact about government in our state. (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405545)

The state house (Where they do their business) has a inappropriately (or appropriately name) entrance on the side. It's called "The General Hooker Entrance". (And no, I'm not making that one up. Just google it.) Here's a photo link http://www.madspedersen.com/photos/1267_large.jpg [madspedersen.com]

Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29405605)

That's a good one.

Question to the exchange sys admins (1)

bigpat (158134) | more than 4 years ago | (#29405943)

Does it reasonably cost $5000 in man hours to retrieve 6 months worth of emails from one persons mailbox in Microsoft Exchange?

Re:Question to the exchange sys admins (1)

Degrees (220395) | more than 4 years ago | (#29406225)

Depends on if they have daily backups that are retained that long. So if there really are 180 tapes that have to be loaded (more like 170, as the most recent tapes are probably still in the library), and each restore takes about one hour of work to do, and the employees involved get paid about $30 per hour, then yes that works out to about $5,000. Where I work, it takes longer than an hour to retrieve a set of tapes because the tapes are sent-off site (you are paying for travel time and mileage), and one has to unload current tapes, do the restore, unload the archive tapes, and reload the current tapes. Then take the archive tapes back to off-site storage. We don't do daily tapes though.

$30,000 to do the job of a small shell script. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29406227)

"The Globe obtained the e-mails of only two employees as a result of its requests, in part because of the cost estimates provided by the Menino administration. City officials estimated they would charge $5,000 for six months worth of e-mail for each employee, for a total cost of $30,000."

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