Monday, December 1, 2008

Please treat the White House computers like crime scene evidence


By David Gewirtz

Dear Mr. President-elect:

David Gewirtz here. Yeah, the guy whose writings got your BlackBerry taken away. Sorry about that! I know you might be feeling withdrawal symptoms, but trust me. It's a good idea. The stories I could tell...

Anyway I know you guys are quite busy with the transition, what with the economy, Blago, a couple of wars, crazy winters and global warming, and that Russian warship in Cuba.

And I know that given all those things, you might not be all that inclined to worry over a little thing like White House email, especially in the first weeks after you're given the keys to the White House.

The thing is, those first few weeks - actually the first few hours and days - are going to be critical.

That's because, when you and Joe and all your friends walk into the White House for the first time as leaders of the Free World, you're going to be walking into an active crime scene. And you need to treat it as such.

The crime is an admitted violation of the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act by your predecessor's geek squad. In her Congressional testimony back in May, Theresa Peyton (Mr. Bush's CIO), admitted that the Bush White House misplaced all email correspondence from the period of March 1 through May 23, 2003.

In fact, the Bush White House may actually have "misplaced" as much as 225 days of email from 2003, according to an Office of Administration request for contractors' proposals, which was dated June 20.

Loss of these records are clear violations of federal law and important evidence may be found in the White House. This is where it gets really important for you and your team.

When you walk through those imposing doors for the first time, the building is likely to be filled with the droppings and detritus of the previous administration, including old computers. Obviously, most of those computers are likely to have been carted away by exiting Bushies (just like President George H.W. Bush's team did on January 19th, 1993), but there might be some still sitting around, and those could contain important information.

Whether those computers are on the desks your team is about to inhabit, in closets, stacked in some basement somewhere, or even out by the dumpsters, these computers are evidence in a federal crime.

Any of the computers - and this also includes computer parts, like hard drives, as well as various other media, like flash and thumb drives - any of these computers could contain traces of those missing messages.