Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The White House email controversy: a detour into mob journalism


By David Gewirtz

For the past few weeks, we've been conducting a detailed, in-depth technical analysis of the White House missing email controversy. Because very little information is easily available, we've had to take each step in sequence and carefully document our observations.

Earlier, we learned that the President's staff uses at least two domains for email: EOP.GOV for official business and GWB43.COM for political business. Last week, we explored GWB43.COM for clues into the White House email infrastructure and came up with some disturbing questions. This week, we take a strange detour into mob journalism as we continue to dig for the truth.

"We did find some amazingly immature behavior from a bunch of geeks."

It should be noted that we've thought very carefully about whether we should be covering this story. Even though our coverage is completely technical in nature, it does touch on political issues since we're looking at the email practices of a sitting President's administration.

Not only have we discovered a national security concern about email management, but we've also identified and will, in later articles, discuss a serious systemic concern in how the United States Government treats email. This is not a red state/blue state issue or even one of Republicans vs. Democrats (we'll talk later about similar email management problems in the Clinton administration).

Instead, this is about how non-technical people are relying almost totally on a technical solution they don't fully understand -- and how that lack of understanding could cause serious security failures for the United States Government. Further, since most other national governments likely rely on email within their infrastructure, this Special Report article series has lessons for national leaders and their advisors outside the Unites States, as well.

The fact is, if we are to take our jobs seriously here at ZATZ, there is no topic more appropriate for us to cover. At the core of the controversy is the question of email messages possibly lost during a transition from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook.

As publishers of the two leading magazines for both these messaging systems, we're in a unique place to look at what's going on from a completely non-partisan (and in this case, I mean IBM Lotus vs. Microsoft) perspective.