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White House Email Follies

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the exchanging-notes dept.

Government 205

Presto Vivace forwards a link detailing a recent House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the White House missing emails mess. David Gewirtz's report, carried in OutlookPower and DominoPower (in 6 parts, keep clicking), makes for scary reading. "If, in fact, the bulk of the White House email records are now stored in bundles of rotting PST files, all at or above their maximum safe load-level, that ain't good in a very big way... I object to using the inaccurate and inflated claim of excessive cost as a reason to avoid compliance with the Presidential Records Act."

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What? (4, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688466)

all at or above their maximum safe load-level
What exactly is the safe load level for a PST file? If you're talking about stuff that's not reliably archived, the answer is "there isn't one." I recall reading a story a while back about a debacle wherein several thousand emails were "inadvertently" deleted... what the hell is so hard about implementing a sane backup policy? It's email, not terabytes of images or anything.

Re:What? (5, Insightful)

cridanb (687817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688546)

the safe load level of a pst is around 2gb , after that it is subject to corruption
as to the amount of data , email systems are the largest systems on earth these days encompassing tens of terabytes of data in their live stores and tens of petabytes on tape

and yes they should have an archiving system not just doing tape back up tape

p.S if they used an enterprise email system like lotus domino this would not be a problem after all thats what the CIA uses

Re:What? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688636)

the safe load level of a pst is around 2gb , after that it is subject to corruption

Depends. Starting with outlook 2003, there is a new format of .pst file which doesn't have size limits. Prior to that, 2 gig was the limit.

and yes they should have an archiving system not just doing tape back up tape

Well, that depends if you want your email to be subpoenaed/leaked or not! G.W. Bush is on the record saying he deliberately doesn't use email for that reason.

p.S if they used an enterprise email system like lotus domino this would not be a problem after all thats what the CIA uses

There are lots of enterprise email systems that can archive email, including exchange. I think this case is more of a deliberate choice not to archive, or plausibly deny archiving.

Re:What? (1)

umghhh (965931) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688756)

GP mentioned possible corruption of a file that is bigger than 2GB. I am not sure what he meant with this but that is certainly not a limit but a bug or limitation if you must.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22689288)

GP mentioned possible corruption of a file that is bigger than 2GB.

It's guaranteed corruption.

I am not sure what he meant with this but that is certainly not a limit but a bug or limitation if you must.

Actually, it's both. Prior to outlook 2003, a .pst file had a file size limit of 2 gigs.

BUT, if your .pst file is just below the limit, and you keep getting email, outlook would happily store the email, increasing the .pst file to over 2 gigs, and then stop working since you're now over the limit. That's a bug.

The only solution is to truncate the .pst file to below the size limit, and then repair the file.

Re:What? (5, Funny)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689036)

I think it's more likely that G.W. doesn't use e-mail because he can't find the "sendification" button.

Depends on format. (1)

xC0000005 (715810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688816)

Format decides the maximum size of a PST.

Re:Depends on format. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22689048)

Not format but version. Outlook 2003 can handle 16 Gb files. Older versions become unreadable at 2 Gb.

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688898)

I know I'm stepping into the middle of a religious war over email servers/clients, but....
It seems to me that any solution that globs a bunch of individual emails into a single database file is the wrong way to go. Why not take the simpler approach, and leave each email in the standard mbox plain text (binaries are MIME-encoded) format? Group them in directory structures that make archiving simple (like date). If you're worried about accessing terabytes of email information, the email metadata can easily be stored in a SQL (MySQL, SQLite, etc) database, which even if you have a 2GB file size limit, could reference terabytes and terabytes worth of actual emails. There are several solutions out there that take this exact approach, and all of them are quick, robust, and easily managed. If there's a disk failure, only those mbox files on that disk (or more likely on that bad block) are affected, and restoration is quick and simple. If your index database goes bye-bye, it's fairly easy to reconstruct from the existing mbox file structure.

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

wish bot (265150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689952)

I couldn't agree more. The Exchange database gives me the heebie-jeebies. Postfix/mail.app on OS X is so much saner for a low level server & client system.

Re:What? (1)

JebusIsLord (566856) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688980)

Outlook (pre-2003) PST files had a hard-limit of 2GB beyond which they would simply refuse to grow. Microsoft recommends against letting your PSTs grow much over 1GB (TFA says 1.6GB). This is common knowledge in the IS dept where I work. The most common type of restoral we do is PST files, by the way. They really do corrupt easily when large. I don't know much about the format other than fragmentation is an issue (when you constantly add and delete messages from a PST). My guess is, as you get close to the 2GB limit, internal fragmentation becomes impossible to deal with.

Having dealt with this stuff first-hand, I can safely say that this story concerns me greatly.

Re:What? (1)

JebusIsLord (566856) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688990)

We switched to Outlook 2003 only recently. I can't tell you yet whether or not the new PST format is any more reliable. The only improvements I know of offhand are UTF encoding and removal of the 2GB limit.

Re:What? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22689610)

Outlook (pre-2003) PST files had a hard-limit of 2GB beyond which they would simply refuse to grow

Not true. Prior to outlook 2003, there is a hard limit of 2GB, but if you keep getting email, outlook would happily store the email in the .pst file, and go over the limit without warning.

Since the file is now over the limit, outlook will stop working. Not the best design.

The only solution if you went over the limit is to truncate the file to below 2GB, then use a program like scanpst to repair it.

Re:What? (2, Funny)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689616)

Well at least there is that interesting and different reasoning for using and recommending M$ exchange and the pst file format.

Have emails that you don't want any more, regulatory authorities breathing down your neck, keeping embarrassing emails becoming a worry, then switch to M$ exchange, we guarantee to 'legally' corrupt and destroy all those pesky records of your corruption, not one incriminating email shall survive.

Based upon the latest M$ Vista email shenanigans, that exchange pst excuse doesn't seem applicable for them. Although it presents an interesting marketing slant, the current US administration is basically stating that M$ exchange is an unsafe and defective record keeping format and should not be used if you want to keep long term accurate records.

Re:What? (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689720)

the safe load level of a pst is around 2gb , after that it is subject to corruption
The safe distance for a politician from a voter is about 2ft (unless your arm is longer), after which he is also subject to corruption.

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

aeschenkarnos (517917) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689872)

after that it is subject to corruption

This is the Bush Administration. It started subject to corruption.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688550)

What exactly is the safe load level for a PST file?

If they're using an older version of Outlook, it had a filesize limit of 2GB. Of course, Outlook wouldn't give you any indication that this limit had been reached--you would just suddenly have a corrupted mailbox that Outlook refused to work with one day. There are workarounds for this that involve splitting this 2GB file into smaller chunks, but you lose some messages when you do it. I'm assuming that's what the article is referring to. And yes, it's quite easy to hit that 2GB limit when you're saving emails that come with PDFs and image attachments.

Re:What? (5, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688614)

What exactly is the safe load level for a PST file?

About 1.9 GB on an older PST file and anymore will crap out.

Outlook 2003 and greater will allow 20gb files, but they become horrendously slow after 5 to 10 gb.

And yes.. People will store gigabytes of email on an exchange server... Usually when they are emailing large videos, photoshop files, or do Desktop publishing work. Though I wonder what the Whitehouse doing to take up that much space.

Certainaly it wasn't powerpoints on intelligence reports.

Re:What? (3, Funny)

NilObject (522433) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689380)

Certainaly it wasn't powerpoints on intelligence reports.


Based the general stream of diarrhea coming from the White House (especially this past week), I'll wager $500 that it's torture/bondage porn.

Re:What? (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689396)

Though I wonder what the Whitehouse doing to take up that much space.
Bush: Hey, Dick, check out this video clip Rummy emailed me!

Email Needs Rethink (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689520)

And yes.. People will store gigabytes of email on an exchange server... Usually when they are emailing large videos, photoshop files, or do Desktop publishing work. Though I wonder what the Whitehouse doing to take up that much space.

Most email systems are poorly factored information because they duplicate a message for every last reader of a given message. It would save a lot of space and traffic if a given attachment or message was stored in one and only one place rather than replicated en-mass.

Of course, the security for centralizing items properly without being read by non-recipients complicates things, but shouldn't be a show-stopper. Also, the retainment date cutoff of the central server and individuals may be different, which makes some people want to be pack-rats if they can't trust the central system to keep stuff long enough.

A related problem is that people often CC copy everybody and their dog to cover their butts. Thus, we get bajillion messages that don't relate to us.

The whole idea of email needs a big rethink. It's become a jungle monster.
     

Re:Email Needs Rethink (2, Informative)

Blackknight (25168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690126)

Exchange server already does this, mail is pretty much stored in a database format.

Re:What? (1)

RodgerDodger (575834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689672)

a) It's in the FA - about 1.6GB per PST file. Above that, you risk corruption of indexes, which makes reliable retrieval hard to impossible (not least because emails, like all of MS's file formats, get broken up into pieces and shoved where they fit)

b) It is terabytes of email - about 10TB, actually. (5000 archives @ 2GB each). Email doesn't have to be small.

What bigger folly... (1)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688476)

could there be than not having someone amongst all those lawyer smart enough to put a quiet word around in the weeks before inauguration saying "Listen, about the Big Plan - yeah, you know, 'Project Eska-whatever-it-is - look, make sure you don't put anything into email, or in a Word doc, or anything like that. Cos, you know, we don't want to be scrambling around trying to look like we're not running a cover-up, whilst we're running a cover-up."

Hmmm, I suppose there is another theory which states that this has already happened...

Lost (5, Insightful)

arigram (1202657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688490)

They just need some excuse for "losing" dangerous email messages...

Mod this guy up (1)

Steve Franklin (142698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688690)

Elect a president who doesn't believe in government and watch the government begin to fail at everything.

Re:Mod this guy up (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688772)

Elect a President who is a failure (Business, Baseball, Economics, & English) and see what happens. He's the Gym Teacher president

Those who can't do Teach, those who can't teach, Teach Gym.

Re:Mod this guy up (1)

chromatic (9471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688856)

Begin?

Re:Mod this guy up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688880)

Strange, considering GWB does believe in big government, just like all the neocons.

ps: what part of "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" do you not understand?

Re:Mod this guy up (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22689390)

Strange, considering GWB does believe in big government, just like all the neocons.

ps: what part of "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" do you not understand?


Despite his other faults, GWB's administration has been the most pro-gun rights administration in decades.

PST files for archiving (5, Insightful)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688532)

Really, that's an accurate write-up - click past a couple of pages to get to the technical details. It'd be hilarious if it weren't so tragic.

After all, it's not like there aren't answers to the question "how shall I archive my user's email for legal and regulatory purposes?" [google.com] (Disclaimer- I work for a player in that market, but we're not on the first page of results for that search. So I don't feel too bad. Oh, wait - )

digitally signed and time stamped archive (4, Insightful)

wkk2 (808881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688558)

Given all the convenient archival problems, every executive branch email should be archived as a PDF and digitally signed and time stamped by a secure server with the private key in protected hardware. The archive needs to be outside of the executive branch.

Re:digitally signed and time stamped archive (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688618)

Why convert to PDF?

Re:digitally signed and time stamped archive (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688696)

To make sure that the attachments can not be decoded.

Re:digitally signed and time stamped archive (1)

wkk2 (808881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688766)

You have a good point. There would be the potential for loss of metadata, equations in spreadsheets, audio, etc. My thought was that a PDF or another standard would only require a single tool to render documents in 200 years but storing the original probably should be a requirement.

Re:digitally signed and time stamped archive (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688864)

And I don't see why this would be hard. Perhaps I'm naive about IT challenges, but where I work nobody even thinks about archives and backups until they need them; there are just some perl scripts that run every night make sure all that stuff gets made.

Do you really need anything other than anacron, scp, maybe a bit of perl, a RAID array or a tape drive, and some guy to buy new disks (or tapes, or whatever you're using) once in a while to make email backups?

Re:digitally signed and time stamped archive (3, Informative)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689914)

No. PDF is bad. The correct format is MIME encoded RFC2822, one file per message, tarballed. It's the best way to keep the information for future readers. Any mail admin worth his pay can convert PST/OST to that format.

You can sign the tarball if you like afterwards.

Re:digitally signed and time stamped archive (1)

wkk2 (808881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690018)

Packing the MIME is a good idea. I would still worry about something like a spreadsheet. Keeping a PDF snap shot of the document, as displayed today, might avoid future problems if the application no longer exists, has dynamic content, has DRM, or who knows what trouble in the future. It might even be good to add additional information like links to the real ids of the mail addresses.

The real question (4, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688566)

is why are the dems allowing the White house off? They should be paying to have all the PST's restored. By now somebody has told them that the white house lied about the costs of the PST files. The need to go after them for perjery as well as getting the emails.

What really bothers me is that not this white house makes nixon and reagan look like boy scouts, but that the dems PROMISED to go after them, and really has done nothing.

Re:The real question (3, Insightful)

Stanislav_J (947290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688596)

What really bothers me is that not this white house makes nixon and reagan look like boy scouts, but that the dems PROMISED to go after them, and really has done nothing.

Politicians making promises and then failing to keep them? I'm shocked....SHOCKED...

Re:The real question (3, Interesting)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688858)

And the captain-obvious-esk sentiment you and the rest of us all feel is EXACTLY the problem.

Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn't mean a time won't come where its necessary to put re-election odds by the wayside and do whats right. The caveat we all despise being that such people do not seem to win elections beyond the small to mid-sized municipal level from what I've seen.

I do not know of a better system overall myself, but this is definitely one of the biggest issues with democracy. Not only can doing whats right get you on your ends without any means (like say, doing nothing) but it can also be entirely undone shortly thereafter. Of course, I do not expect this to change unless we survive the next worldwide readjustment when we either can no longer maintain the food supply thats maintaining worldwide overpopulation, blow our selves the hell up, or simply forget that water isn't just for toilets.

If the current level of strife in the world isn't enough to make people want to think for themselves to be able to navigate the sea of bullshit on all sides, i doubt anything will until we see massive imminent worldwide peril with projected massive die-offs within a generation. Then the question will be, will we survive it.

Re:The real question (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688892)

Actually, you should be shocked. True, a politician is never able to fully implement his program(nature of democracy), but the scale of deceit is huge. I don't understand why people still believe in this deeply flawed system. If a democratic system doesn't do anything the people want, you should consider abolishing it right away.

But here come the Churchill quotists: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

I honestly seriously doubt this. The current democratic systems all have the same problem. They are all olichargies. Now, this doesn't raise my eyebrow for a second. For the Iron Law of Olichargy pretty much never fails to implement itself. The fact is that if you chose a select number of representatives and you don't have personal contacts with them, they will naturally form groupes. And since elected bodies of representatives often wield the most theoretical power in a nation, it is natural that these groups will be very powerful. And the fact is that power often corrupts so now you have corrupt groups of people with power. The number differs in each country but in the US they made it tricky with 2 major powerblocks. So, now you have 2 big corrupt blocks of power. You are basically strong-armed to vote for either because third-party guarantees that your vote will actually be a vote for the winner. Sure, democracy can work. But only in the country up to the size of Liechtenstein where everybody has a big chance of knowing a representative. After that, it's pretty much power politics. And people become highly desillusioned with the people in power. Which will form apathy. Which is the death-blow for every democracy. Sad really.

Democracy is dead. Always has been, always will be.

Re:The real question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22689224)

Except that studies shown that politicians generally DO keep promises. Granted, many don't, and often they pay for it.

Re:The real question (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688838)

is why are the dems allowing the White house off?
Because both sides have the same paymasters?

 

Why the dems? (1)

toby (759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689454)

IANAAmerican, but surely this is a non-partisan issue of heedless and convenient law-breaking, not a squabble solved by fiery press releases from Democrat HQ.

Please, USA, lock these criminals up already.

Re:The real question (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689768)

That would no doubt require some kind of appropriation by congress which the president would no doubt veto. They can't use criminal sanctions because the president has ordered justice not to pursue actions against his buddies. Unless the dems have a super-majority in congress there isn't much they can do without the white house co-operating. Pretty much every bill that wasn't GOP originated has been vetoed since the dems took congress, well at least every one that tries to reign in the white house anyway.

Sibel Edmunds (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690024)

Congress has the POWER to ungag Sibel Edmunds. And yes, the majority (though not super majority) dems have the ability to do this. WHY HAVE THEY NOT?

Delete the White House (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688570)

Is anyone out there still thinking that this White House operates at all near the level of minimum performance required from people in its job?

Anyone still think all this incompetence that always protects Bush and his team is some kind of accident?

Re:Delete the White House (5, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688860)

> operates at all near the level of minimum performance required

We should be so lucky to see such a high standard.

> Anyone still think all this incompetence that always protects Bush and his team is some kind of accident?

I would rather. The alternative explanation is EVIL and probably treasonous.

Re:Delete the White House (5, Informative)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689252)

Treasonous? Ever heard of Sibel Edmonds? She's got your treason in detail. Do a Google or go here [justacitizen.org] . And here's the Wikipedia entry. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Delete the White House (2, Insightful)

jthill (303417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689164)

No, but a great many people have gone tribal: they like it that the President is willfully violating oath, honor, duty and law. It means the man at the top of the hierarchy they worship, and therefore the hierarchy itself, is above all, and they're part of that hierarchy. The only rules they have to follow are what Big Men say.

Re:Delete the White House (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689350)

In 10 months it'll be a different "big man". That kind of king worship is exactly what this country is designed to thwart.

Strangling kittens (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688584)

Admittedly, I don't really understand the significance of these emails, there seems so much else blatently "not right" about the US administration from the last 7 years, but one thing is certain... those emails are out there. They're sitting in a cache on a forgotten sector of a disk.

Sooner or later someone is going to stumble on them and they will be posted on Wikileaks.

And right after that, I expect Bush and his henchmen to brazenly turn around and say "Yeah, so what?"

Right now you could post video evidence of them strangling kittens amd the American people would say "Meh... they were probably terrist kittens that deserved it"

The failure to produce the emails when we all know that it's pretty well technically inpossible to "lose" them already indicates corruption and coverup to any reasonable person.

Elsewhere in the world destruction of evidence is taken as guilt. Is that not the case in the USA?

So why bother with actual evidence in making our judgements. It's not like the US administration hold themselves to such high standards is it?

Re:Strangling kittens (3, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688778)

Elsewhere in the world destruction of evidence is taken as guilt. Is that not the case in the USA?

In the USA, it matters a whole lot who you're talking about whether or not XYZ counts as guilt.

Is not (2, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688832)

"It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

Re:Strangling kittens (1)

whitehatlurker (867714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690102)

In the USA, it matters a whole lot who you're talking about

In the USA, it matters a whole lot who you ARE. Office of the President kind of trumps most legal arguments.

Lotus Notes? (3, Funny)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688592)

I find the fact that the US Government runs on Lotus Notes more scary than the fact that they don't have any sort of backup strategy.

I bet if you go over to the IRS, those guys have a rock-solid backup going back many years.....

Re:Lotus Notes? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688612)

I bet if you go over to the IRS, those guys have a rock-solid backup going back many years.....

Well, I wouldn't look to the IRS as a paragon of information technology deployment either. They have their problems.

Re:Lotus Notes? (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688902)

Don't you find the idea that they're migrating to LookOut equally scary?

The real issue here is that it isn't the tool, either Notes or Exchange, it's the competence and policies of the administrators, along with delivering that to the users with proper support. Just because it's the White House doesn't make the needs different in kind, only quality.

Re:Lotus Notes? (2, Insightful)

thirtimecharm (1253100) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688994)

The actual moral to the story is don't switch FROM Lotus Notes. At least not to Exchange. If they had multiple replicated servers, it wouldn't have been as easy for them to ,ahem, accidently lose all those emails.

Re:Lotus Notes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22689176)

You'd lose...

The trouble started when they migrated from Notes (2, Insightful)

markdowling (448297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689178)

" Mr. ISSA. Okay. So here we have a situation where the Clinton Administration is on a platform that has to be phased out. Simply, they lost the war of who is going to supply emails. A period of time goes on in which Yes, we are dealing, to Dr. Weinstein's concern, with getting good archives, but we are also dealing with the fact that I can't play my Betamax tapes any more, either, and I can't seem to find anybody who has a Betamax player any more."

Maybe Mr Issa should look here [ibm.com] . And Republicans are the ones who lose wars these days.

Meanwhile, the General Services Administration just saved a million bucks of taxpayers money [fcw.com] with Notes.

Who cares? (4, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688608)

All their interesting stuff went through private mail servers at the RNC [house.gov] to evade responsibility for document retention under the Presidential Records Act. The RNC systematically destroys its emails and Bush has even invoked executive privilege in ordering the RNC to defy Congressional subpoenas to produce them.

Re:Who cares? (-1, Offtopic)

lucky_bestman20 (1253084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688794)

Here I am, some lowly line level system tech for a smallish town, and I'd be handed my marching orders were I even a quarter as http://lacosteshirts.freebiehost.net/ [freebiehost.net] incompetent as the white house staff seems to be. Which leads me to suspect: 1) Either they are that incompetent, and it's just a symptom of big government not knowing it's ass from it's face OR 2) These people are purposefully http://guccichanel.freebiehost.net/ [freebiehost.net] appearing this inept. Either option isn't pleasant, http://lacoste.freebiehost.net/ [freebiehost.net] and both lead to a serious problem with our government where there will likely be no repercussions from this. But then, http://lacostepoloshirts.freebiehost.net/ [freebiehost.net] we all knew that already, http://lacosteshoes.freebiehost.net/ [freebiehost.net] didn't we? -- Ever notice how people remember posters by their sigs and not their names?

Re:Who cares? (4, Informative)

cfulmer (3166) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688836)

There is a completely acceptable reason for going through the RNC, and it's the same reason that the Clinton administration used similar services at the DNC: there are two competing acts. You've mentioned the Presidential Records Act, which is intended to protect the official records of the White House. There's also the Hatch Act, which (among other things) prevents government computers from being used for political activities. Emails regarding political activities went through the RNC servers (or, in the case of the Clinton Administration, the DNC servers); emails regarding activities as President, i.e. the Presidential Records, are supposed to go through the White House email system, where they are backed up and archived. So, you cannot infer an intent to violate the Presidential Records Act merely from the fact that outside services were used.

Re:Who cares? (4, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689210)

There's also the Hatch Act, which (among other things) prevents government computers from being used for political activities. Emails regarding political activities went through the RNC servers (or, in the case of the Clinton Administration, the DNC servers); emails regarding activities as President, i.e. the Presidential Records, are supposed to go through the White House email system, where they are backed up and archived. So, you cannot infer an intent to violate the Presidential Records Act merely from the fact that outside services were used.

There, I helped you out with a few BOLD tags. Your mistake is assuming that an email either falls under the scope of partisian political activity or represents communication at official levels regarding government business. They sent emails that were both.

When you're having an email conversation (for example) about which U.S. Attorneys should be fired by the president for prosecuting Republican offenses or for not going after Democrats in election years, and what the cover stories for the firings should be, you're mixing political partisan activity and official government business. Since these emails were illegal for government officials to be sending, they obviously didn't use the White House email infrastructure to send them. Even these guys weren't that stupid. They were dumb enough, though, to indicate in WH emails when they were going to continue certain conversations, regarding planned activities to be carried out in an official capacity, in nongovernmental channels (RNC, gwb43.com, Yahoo Mail) to avoid them from ever becoming public.

But the purpose of the Hatch Act (passed in 1939) isn't just to protect Outlook servers from private or partisan use- it forbids the use of any federal agencies or resources to assist in partisan activities. That would include both WH email servers and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Re:Who cares? (1)

cfulmer (3166) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689542)

it forbids the use of any federal agencies or resources to assist in partisan activities

I think that you mean political activities. If it actually banned partisan activities, the Congress would have to shut down.

You are correct -- there can be emails which are both. And, if you're trying to figure out how to send such an email, which law do you follow? If you send it through the official White House mail server, Henry Waxman will go after you for using White House servers for political business. If you send it through the RNC, he'll go after you for not using the White House servers.

I think the answer should be that you go with the Hatch Act, but it's not 100% clear, and it's a huge catch-22. (One that President Clinton also ran into.)

The best answer should be that the President should never made decisions for political reasons. But, that's a standard that has been violated by every president since General Washington.

Re:Who cares? (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689658)

The best answer should be that the President should never made decisions for political reasons. But, that's a standard that has been violated by every president since General Washington.

Yes, and since "historians are still debating the first president" it's supposedly premature to judge this president's activities until all of us are dead. But I somehow doubt George Washington ever ordered his Attorney General to concentrate on investigating members of the Democratic-Republican Party as opposed to Federalists. Of course you can say "all politicians do this", since it really can't be avoided, but usually it means pet projects in one's district, meaningless crowd-pleasing hearings about baseball and steroids, naming post offices after people, etc. We've never had a thug for president who actually used the justice system and the prisons [cbsnews.com] to target members of the opposition party.

To quote Artie Bucco from The Sopranos (0, Offtopic)

Ron_Fitzgerald (1101005) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688616)

"We lead the world in computerized data collection"

To hear that email from the White House has been 'deleted', 'misplaced' or simply 'missing' is truly a slap in the face to the American people.

This stuff pisses me off completely...that and the 'dangling chad debacle'.

wow (3, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688626)

Here I am, some lowly line level system tech for a smallish town, and I'd be handed my marching orders were I even a quarter as incompetent as the white house staff seems to be. Which leads me to suspect:

1) Either they are that incompetent, and it's just a symptom of big government not knowing it's ass from it's face
OR
2) These people are purposefully appearing this inept.

Either option isn't pleasant, and both lead to a serious problem with our government where there will likely be no repercussions from this.

But then, we all knew that already, didn't we?

Re:wow (2, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688682)

I'd vote for (3) Responsibility without authority. You have a whole building full of "important people" and political hacks who believe that rules and procedures are only for the little people.

whole building? (1)

kybred (795293) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688760)

I'd vote for (3) Responsibility without authority. You have a whole city full of "important people" and political hacks who believe that rules and procedures are only for the little people.

There, fixed that for you.

Re:wow (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688714)

US Government IT is that bad.
Actually, it's worse.

If you already know, it's too late for your sanity.

If you don't, trust me, you don't want to truly know.

Re:wow (5, Insightful)

laird (2705) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688720)

The problem, I believe, is that the Presidential Records Act has no enforcement provisions or penalties for non-compliance. Thus, if the White House prefers to ignore it, there's no risk in doing so. So if the value of non-compliance is higher than the value of compliance, which is the case right now, the PRA loses.

This is not simply a case of incompetent IT staff setting up a system badly. The White House had an email system that by all accounts worked very well, archiving everything properly, and it was shut down and the staff let go, and the new system was set up by someone over-ruling their own IT staff in order to make sure that it couldn't work properly. That means that someone made the decision to spend a lot of time and money to eliminate a system that worked properly, to replace it with a system that didn't, over-ruling the recommendations of their own IT staff, which can only have been done intentionally.

What would be ideal would be for the PRA to be given real teeth so that the cost of violating it becomes clearly higher than the cost of not hiding whatever it is you want hidden. Given the extremely high value of keeping embarrassing or illegal behavior secret, the penalty needs to be extremely high as well, as it is for destroying evidence. That is to say, courts should presume that the records that were destroyed were incriminating. Judges take destroying evidence of a crime quite seriously.

Re:wow (4, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688982)

While there's no seeming penalty, civil or criminal, there is a bigger penalty: ongoing confidence in government. The hubris and arrogance has become intolerable. This is just one symptom of a government gone berserk. Vetoing a bill on torture was another. Sliming the US House of Representatives because it won't pass a bill allowing the telcos to violate the very tenets of liberty in the constitution is another. The list is long. The list is sad. These are evil days, my friends.

Re:wow (2, Informative)

Steve Franklin (142698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688758)

Look at this guy's record. He has a long history of driving companies out of business, or having them bailed out by others. Remember, this guy literally couldn't find oil in Bahrain. Then he promised to run the country like a corporation. If it weren't for this long history of incompetence, you could suggest that maybe he's intentionally trying to screw things up. But he does have that history. He's a chronic screw up and that's more than enough explanation. If others are using his incompetence to further their own agendas, well, that's also his fault for not riding rough shod over them. The sign on Truman's desk didn't say, "The buck stops down the hall."

Re:wow (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688926)

> Then he promised to run the country like a corporation.

He has run the country like a corporation. His own. You gave the prior record. The only surprise is the continued willing blindness in the Party and populace.

"Excessive Cost" (2, Insightful)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688640)

I object to using the inaccurate and inflated claim of excessive cost as a reason to avoid compliance with the Presidential Records Act

Considering how much we're spending in what are arguably other countries' wars, I'd find a claim of "excessive cost" for anything laughable.

Solution (3, Funny)

Cuppa 'Joe' Black (1000483) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688662)

Someone just needs to 'leak' that one of those archived emails contains a transcript of Osama bin Laden endorsing Barack Obama for president. Then stand back because we are all going to be sprayed with WH archived emails.

Re:Solution (0, Flamebait)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688746)

Someone just needs to 'leak' that one of those archived emails contains a transcript of Osama bin Laden endorsing Barack Obama for president.
Nah, OBL will just release another video tape before the election endorsing Barack Obama (or Hillary) so John McCain can win. You know, you always help out your friends. Although, as another idea, why hasn't OBL released a "greatest hits" video? He surely has enough material by now.

Re:Solution (2, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688834)

The Bush presidency has helped OBL's cause beyond his wildest dreams.

The SPCA has a much easier time recruiting when there's a serial puppy-kicker on the loose.

I watched this on TV (3, Interesting)

value_added (719364) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688724)

So much for those that say watching CSPAN coverage of legislative hearings is as boring as watching paint dry.

The article, despite being spread across multiple pages, characterises the hearing fairly, so I won't bother reiterating except to say that the committee members were indeed uninformed, the witnesses were somewhere between clueless and dishonest, and the politics injected into the situation (notably from the Republicans) was so thick that I wondered whether anything could be agreed upon or any of the issues resolved. Hell, by the end of it, I doubt anyone really knew what the technical issues were, myself included.

The saving grace was watching (no one could hear what he was saying) the soft-spoken White House archivist and remembering the joke about how to tell the difference between an introverted and extroverted geek. Instead of shoes, it was microphones.

Your government in action, folks. The bad guys trying to cover up, the good guys trying to find out what's going on, and both groups taking its cues Microsoft weenies.

Big, corrupted PST files? No problem. (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688762)

Big, corrupted PST files? No problem. Just get Stellar Phoenix PST Repair [repair-outlook-pst.com] . "Stellar Phoenix can repair PST files in all scenarios including the common issues listed below ... Oversized PST files with 2Gb problem. Recovers from encrypted files. Recovers deleted e-mails." U.S. Government price $249 with CD. Immediate download available. Recommended by PC Magazine.

This little problem can be overcome. Just get some image copies of those tapes out to the Internet Archive or Wikileaks, and all the technical problems will be quickly dealt with, the data will go on line, and it will all be indexed.

Haha - anybody surprised? (2, Insightful)

rainer_d (115765) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688770)

Are you new here?
Honestly, this is a classic, almost Hollywood-style presidential-aid-villain-style tactic.
First, you dry up all the funding to something so that you can later claim there was not enough money to do it right.
And in the process of doing it "not right" some important stuff gets lost so the people in charge can't be charged later (which they can't anyway, because presidents make a habit of indemnifying their successors and most of the senior staff around them, because if they wouldn't, their successor wouldn't indemnify them...).

Still wondering why people actually get out of their bed and vote?

Re:Haha - anybody surprised? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689096)

Honestly, this is a classic, almost Hollywood-style presidential-aid-villain-style tactic.
...
Still wondering why people actually get out of their bed and vote?
To prevent 4 more years?

Honestly though, this is what happens when ill-intentioned people abuse well intentioned laws. Party affiliation shouldn't effect the basic runnings of government.

Cost is a crock. (1)

xC0000005 (715810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688842)

The cost of retrieval is normally included in evaluating any backup solution. If I need a particular SLA I need to evaluate the cost of a given solution in restoring, not just backing up. If I didn't evaluate that during my analysis I have to eat that cost when providing the service. And accessing PSTs via code is easy, so it's not like something couldn't just suck the mail out of the PST as needed. That said a PST isn't an archival format as far as I'm concerned. Oh, and "PSTs above their safe level" depends entirely on what the format of the PST is.

So what is new? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688848)

I fail to see how this any different than what went on in the White House from 1993 to 2001.
Subpeonaed records were reported as not existing for two years untill a maid found them in one of the current presidential canidate's closets.
At least one cabinet secretary was found in contempt of court for not producing documents.
The president was found in civil contempt of court for lying under oath in a civil trial. The president was disbarred for the same offense.
Official records were removed from an office at the White House while the office occupant's unnatural death was being investigated (it was later ruled suicide but that was not initially clear).
White House career employees were fired, and the records associated with those firings mysteriously disappeared when Congress requested to see them.
Personal FBI files were transfeered to the White House political staff.

If anything the current White House occupants had very good teachers. And one of those teachers is running for president now.

Re:So what is new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22689606)

I'm always curious to know why people bring up irrelevant facts at times like this. I don't get it.

Are you a moral relativist, arguing that no one can ever be expected to behave better than the previously-established worst? If so, your position leads to Zimbabwe or something like it overnight.

Are you a political apologist, like the dishonest bastards who used to bring up the behaviour of the United States every time anyone criticised the Soviet Union?

Or are you an idiot, who thinks that every question only has two sides, and if you're not for our answer (the Republicans, apparently) you must be for their answer (the Democrats, I guess, in this case)?

I'm personally betting on idiot.

Here's a clue: every interesting question has more than two sides, and other people's bad behaviour, no matter how recent and no matter how geographically nearby, is completely irrelevant applying even the most modestly objective standard to someone's current behaviour.

And in this case there is a clear, obvious, relatively uncomplicated objective standard to apply: the good of the nation and trust in government. By that standard, the Bush administration has failed on multiple fronts, and the Whitehouse e-mail mess is objectively one of them.

Re:So what is new? (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690130)

Clinton did it != acceptable.

And on "teachers" wasn't Nixon's "14 missing minutes"* the template?

*I think I am off on the number of minutes, but you get the idea...

Mission Critical Email - why I won't use MS Prods (3, Interesting)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689184)

I cannot stand Microsoft Exchange in any of it's versions. It is nothing but an I.T. headache of the worst kind. Try backing up the mail store, I dare you. After spending several thousand more dollars you'll be close but no cigar.

In my former place of employment we used a lot of OSS for things like web, email, database, etc. Even Samba. We had a few MS-SQL environments but I stayed as far from those as I could. For email we used Qmail with a SquirrelMail front end, and for web it was Apache/Plone and databases were MySQL.

The nice thing about Qmail is it stores email in user home folders. They're flat files that are easily replicated and backed up.

When the new administration came in the Director of Admin was paranoid about the fact that I.T. could see her email folder. So they went out and spent a shitload of money on AD, Exchange, etc.

That was a year ago. They still don't have it all running.

Re:Mission Critical Email - why I won't use MS Pro (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689272)

The nice thing about Qmail is it stores email in user home folders. They're flat files that are easily replicated and backed up.
And you back up every incoming email at the time it comes in? If you're doing nightly backups, then you're not able to archive every email if someone deletes the email from their home folder.

When the new administration came in the Director of Admin was paranoid about the fact that I.T. could see her email folder. So they went out and spent a shitload of money on AD, Exchange, etc. That was a year ago. They still don't have it all running.
Which only goes to show that your administration hired people who were incompetent. A year to get Active Directory and Exchange running? You've got to be kidding.
 

I back up my IS. Without spending thousands. (1)

xC0000005 (715810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689576)

Not really sure what you are getting at here. And one really has to wonder what took a year for an AD/Exchange install. Or are we including waiting for 64 bit hardware to deploy W2k3/E2k7?

When Slashdot shows some balance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22689212)

And does things like post stories about the Clintons refusing to release documents relating to such things as Marc Rich's pardon, or the fact that after four years John Kerry still hasn't released his military records, I'll care about this.

Until then, Slashdot is nothing more than another partisan hack site.

So where's the mole we need ? (1)

speedlaw (878924) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689242)

Without getting into the technical issues ... Where's the righteous geek who will release all these emails ? Lost, sure (hack cough right). Someone has a real copy. And, that copy is for blackmail purposes.... Somewhere, someone has to do the right thing and release this stuff.

The reason the White House won't give up the email (2, Insightful)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689308)

is because they DON'T KNOW what's in them.

With the morons they have on staff up there - and that includes Bush - they can't be sure all sorts of incriminating stuff isn't in them. In fact, they probably assume there is.

So they stonewall.

Read TFA. They're making estimates of the cost of recovery of the PST files as wildly off the mark. They're claiming it would cost $50K just to recover ONE PST file! And half a million bucks to recover 5,000 PST files!

That's deliberately false testimony - i.e., perjury.

Face it, folks. This country is being run by criminals now - just like in Warren Ellis' comic, "Reload". Look up Sibel Edmonds [justacitizen.org] on Google and see just how bad it is.

Re:The reason the White House won't give up the em (2, Interesting)

socz (1057222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689470)

Maybe citizens who have some free time on their hands and the experience/clearance necessary can make an organization to do these things for free for Govt agencies. That would be pretty cool because it could be a non-partisan group who does this.

But really, what are the odds that ANYONE in govt would want this? Too bad though.

There is no folly here (2, Insightful)

snaildarter (1143695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689426)

Slashdotters may think that it looks bad for the President's email systems to be horribly unreliable. Compared with what was probably in those emails, this is nothing. In fact, this whole missing email thing is brilliant, and from the Pres's perspective, a job well done. The missing content gives the Pres a get-out-of-jail-free card. Not that he really needs one, since our Constitution makes kings out of our Presidents here in America, with the ability to do whatever they damn well please.

Add it to their heaping history of secrecy (1)

Phat_Tony (661117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689428)

If you want the context that would make it surprising if the white house did anything other than hide every aspect of what they did, take a look at the book Worse Than Watergate. [amazon.com] Or get it on audio book and listen to it. It certainly contains some bias, but that's an unfortunate and unnecessary detriment to a text that very thoroughly documents numerous counts of unreasonable and often illegal attempts to maintain a monumental shroud of secrecy over everything this administration does.

I found the bit about him blatantly violating Texas law by keeping all his gubernatorial records completely sealed very interesting. This was well documented and easy to find out about before he was elected in 2000, but the media barely touched it. It turns out it was a pretty good indicator of future performance.

I am Flabbergasted (1)

farrellj (563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689796)

I've been doing email admin for a couple of decades now...I started off running a Fidonet system, and have managed email servers for Fortune 500 companies. I don't use Exchange. After Opus and Maximus, all of the mail servers I have worked on were Unix. And under Unix, even with the beast that is Sendmail, it is *easy* to make a complete duplicate of all email going through a server. And as the emails are stored as text files, you are really only limited by the size of your file system's maximum file size. Archive those files monthly, and you won't see any performance degradation. Use a file system that uses compression, and run RAID 01, and you could probably go for a year, depending on the system speed, and mail volume.

Such an archive email server could easily run in front of the exchange server, and be transparent to it.

Is the US government so clueless? Or did they do what they did on purpose?

ttyl
          Farrell

Re:I am Flabbergasted (1)

Rick Genter (315800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690090)

Is the US government so clueless?


Yes. Yes it is.
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