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Tilting at Windmills

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February 26, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

EMAIL HELL....Remember all those millions of emails that the White House may or may not have lost over the past few years? Henry Waxman held hearings about this today and wanted to know what happened to the Automatic Records Management System, which was installed by the Clinton administration and worked fine. Information Week reports:

Theresa Payton, CIO for the White House Office of Administration, said in her prepared statement that the incoming Bush administration transitioned from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange over a two-year period from 2002-2004, and that the ARM System established by the previous administration did not work properly with Exchange.

"ARMS was a custom-designed application," Payton testified, "and I understand that it was discovered that it just could not be effectively integrated with Microsoft Exchange."

....Payton testified Tuesday before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the Bush administration had tried to institute its own archiving system, known as the Electronic Communications Records Management System, but ultimately failed.

"For several reasons, including the need for additional modifications, the identified performance issues, and projected costs, the deployment of ECRMS was canceled," Payton said.

See? George Bush promised to run the government as if it were a business, and he did. Comparisons to the Iraq war, especially unfair but funny ones, should be left in comments.

Kevin Drum 6:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Comments

Like so many of GWBs pathetic failures, it can be summed up easily.
"It was obivously Bill Clinton's fault."

Posted by: cboas on February 26, 2008 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm... based on the extent of wiretapping they did, you'd reckon the NSA should have copies of everything.

Posted by: Buford on February 26, 2008 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

It is the way W ran businesses. After all, all of the ones he ran failed.

Posted by: JohnL on February 26, 2008 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Great post. As I've opined before, the nation is spending so much time analyzing the candidates while the Bush/Cheney administration shockingly stays under the proverbial radar, however remaining aggressively unrelenting in their abuse of the Constitution, the American people, the Congress, yet disturbingly invulnerable, certainly not yet IMPEACHED, rarely making front page news as a result of continued media acquiescence. They don't even have to spin reality any more?
It's like it is what it is.

Posted by: consider wisely always on February 26, 2008 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

I hear there's a little company out in Redmond, Washington that would have loved to have helped out with the Notes to Exchange transition - probably would have done it for free.

Posted by: RobertSeattle on February 26, 2008 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

From an IT perspective, leaving a proprietary system for Exchange was the right thing to do.

Posted by: fwiw on February 26, 2008 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Of course. The password for using the ARM properly left the President's office with the White House China.

Posted by: gregor on February 26, 2008 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

JohnL: It is the way W ran businesses. After all, all of the ones he ran failed.

Not all. The baseball team became worth a lot of money after Dallas built it a stadium with public money.

Posted by: anandine on February 26, 2008 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Failure is the only option.

Posted by: AJ on February 26, 2008 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Not an original observation, I know, but I have to say how lucky we are that the Bush administration's authoritarian ambitions have been so often stymied by its incompetence. Of course, that's often the case with such ambitions, since they tend to alienate competent realists.

Posted by: Jess on February 26, 2008 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

I worked with Lotus Notes and Exchange. Walking a lotus notes database is relatively simple. It is hard to believe that the White House, with all the funds and technology it has at its disposal, couldn't figure out how to interop between Notes and Exchange. That is a load of crap.

If the POTUS decides that retaining email records is important, it is easy to make that happen. In the worst case you simply save your Lotus Notes database(s) and save the Lotus Notes software/version that can understand that archive. Or, you can go one step further and extract all the data you want and rewrite it into a different format (html, xml, whatever else).

They didn't want the email records around, so they got rid of them. Occam's Razor.

Posted by: rational on February 26, 2008 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Load of crap is right. The Bush administration, as we all know, are a bunch of crooked liars and should all be tried for treason.

Posted by: Helena Montana on February 26, 2008 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Bush told Bob Woodward "I am the commander, see. I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe someone needs to explain to me why they need to say something, but I don't feel I owe anyone an explanation."
WORST. PRESIDENT. EVER.

I like what I read in tvnewslies.org, blog archive, George W Bush, the Pretend President:

"... George W Bush is a creation of a public relations effort. He is an actor trying to keep up with his lead role, when in reality he should be doing what many bad actors do--bussing tables.
George W Bush has not had an original thought since he was born. His policies were created for him by the Project for a New American Century. His words are prepared for him. His questions are prepared for him. His entire presidency is that of an actor that needs to be taught his lines and reminded of them prior to each scene. He requires the use of a teleprompter or an ear piece to make it thru a scene. He needs to have the play constantly explained to him because he has not even read the screenplay prior to his audition and he still has not read it after the show has been running 5 years. He still does not know enough about the production to explain it in detail, only in little general descriptions, as if you are watching a commercial for a movie where the commercial never really tells you what the movie is about, only that it is exciting and it will scare you! It is pathetic, it's outrageous, it's criminal and it is a complete sham..."

Posted by: consider wisely always on February 26, 2008 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

"From an IT perspective, leaving a proprietary system for Exchange was the right thing to do."

Exchange is not proprietary?

Posted by: ronald on February 26, 2008 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

"ARMS was a custom-designed application," Payton testified, "and I understand that it was discovered that it just could not be effectively integrated with Microsoft Exchange."

Did they try turning it off and rebooting? Because that often works for me.

Posted by: Stefan on February 26, 2008 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly, they should have upgraded to a Mac :-).

And Al's example is incorrect; not only is it possible to carry data forward from an old Windows Box to a Mac, I have done so my very own self, upgrading a friend from a spyware/adware/virus-infested Windows 98 box, to a Mac, while preserving all her email.

Amd, yuck, Microsoft Exchange? In 2001? Anyone remember the Sircam virus, that would forward random documents from your home directory and mail them (with bonus infection payload, of course) to all your friends and relatives.

Posted by: dr2chase on February 26, 2008 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK
From an IT perspective, leaving a proprietary system for Exchange was the right thing to do.

From an IT perspective, Exchange is a proprietary system, too.

In an unrelated point, in this age of Sarbanes-Oxley, I'm pretty sure there's several software packages that do email archiving and hook into Exchange. In other words, the explanation is utter and complete bullshit.

Posted by: phleabo on February 26, 2008 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

It is hard to believe that the White House, with all the funds and technology it has at its disposal, couldn't figure out how to interop between Notes and Exchange.

Maybe Regent University cut the IT program to make room for classes on Intelligent Design, Voter Intimidation, and "How to Fuck Up a Foreign Invasion in Five Easy Steps".

Posted by: enozinho on February 26, 2008 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

From an IT perspective, leaving a proprietary system for Exchange was the right thing to do.

Please don't ever try to administer anything more complicated than an iPod, okay?

Posted by: F. Frederson on February 26, 2008 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Bush, aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003: "I am the master of low expectations."

Bush, as quoted by the New York Daily News, April 23, 2002: "This foreign policy stuff is
a little frustrating."

On Iraqi militants attacking US forces, Washington DC, July 3, 2003:
"My answer is bring them on."

IT REALLY IS ABOUT INCOMPETENCE

Posted by: consider wisely always on February 26, 2008 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

WORST. PRESIDENT. EVER.

Corruption and incompetence, kind of piggybacking on each other. I cannot even muster snark. It's too goddam depressing.

Posted by: Ted on February 26, 2008 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't that close enough for government work?

They shoulda called the Geek Squad.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 26, 2008 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK
From an IT perspective, leaving a proprietary system for Exchange was the right thing to do.Lotus Notes is no less a proprietary system than Exchange is; from an IT perspective, transitioning from a system in which key functionality (and the records management system is key functionality) is demonstrated to work for a different system without demonstrated functionality to provide the key functionality is not the right thing to do.

It may be common, especially when someone in a decision-making position has an irrational (or, alternatively, just plain corrupt) attachment to a particular vendor, and this is the administration that, when they came in, let Microsoft essentially off the anti-trust hook. But its not the right thing to do.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 26, 2008 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

"Bush tried to fix it by creating a permanent solution, but this solution could not save the old e-mails because they are incompatible systems."

This is pure B.S. Data can always be saved and emails are just data. They can be converted to text and saved with almost anything. Do that with the old system before you convert.

Or just buy a cheapo computer and keep the old system installed on it JUST to keep the email.

Oh, wait a minute. That wasn't the real Al, was it...

I like the Regent University comment the best.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 26, 2008 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

So we have yet to find the e-mails that were massively destructed? Maybe they're under here...

Posted by: K on February 26, 2008 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

Was anyone reminded of Erick Ericcson from RedState who complained about not being able to upgrade his software because of liberals, apparently, control software and target conservatives for failure?

Posted by: Ha on February 26, 2008 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

No one ever went to jail by blaming Microsoft.

Posted by: CarlP on February 26, 2008 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

"It is striking," Maureen Dowd once said, "that the Bush scion, who has tried so hard to do the opposite of his father, also ends up facing the prospect of a recession in his final year in office.
Maybe if the president had spent the trillion he squandered on his Iraq odyssey
on energy research, we might have broken the oil addiction."
"Now it's a race between Iraq, stupid, or the economy, stupid, to see which will usher out W."

Posted by: consider wisely always on February 26, 2008 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Reason #37 why Exchange (not to mention the Bush administration) blows.

Posted by: Sean Peters on February 26, 2008 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

On May 23, 1997, Exchange Server 5.0 was released, which introduced the new Exchange Administrator console, as well as opening up "integrated" access to SMTP-based networks for the first time. Unlike Microsoft Mail (which required a standalone SMTP relay), Exchange Server 5.0 could, with the help of an add-in called the Internet Mail Connector, communicate directly with servers using the internet mail standard.The Notes client can be used as an IMAP and POP e-mail client with non-domino mail servers. Recipient addresses can be retrieved from any LDAP server, including [Microsoft]Active Directory. -Wikipedia

Hmmm....

The {lotus] Notes client can be used as an IMAP and POP e-mail client with non-domino mail servers. Recipient addresses can be retrieved from any LDAP server, including Microsoft Active Directory.

I would have to think the reason they have given, also, is utter bovine plop. The email protocols are not that difficult. As for IBM [Maker of lotus notes] Bill Gates [MS fame] mother sat on the board of that company.

And I agree, the SMTP and email protocols are standardised.

Posted by: Jet on February 26, 2008 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

You know who did a really good job of managing complex governmental data and files?

The Nazis, that's who.

This is the surest proof that Bush is not a fascist, and that the so-called "Liberals" who care more about faceless numbers and electronic files than they do about the unborn, um ... are.

Posted by: The Confidence Man on February 26, 2008 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

You know, this is ridiculous. The White House record-keeping requirement is not significantly different from the record-keeping requirement for any broker/dealer in the United States. If these many firms can easily store billions of email messages every day in a searchable database for three years, then there is no reason that the White house can't figure it out.

Posted by: Martin on February 26, 2008 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

The issue isn't that the emails were thrown away in the migration from Lotus Notes to Exchange. It's that the custom built archiving system was dumped and none replaced it, leaving users free to delete any emails they wanted. Question, the erased emails, are they from before the 2004 switch or after? If they were before the switch, I've got to bet a backup of the Lotus Notes DB exists. If it is illegal to not keep these emails, arrest the CIO, I bet she finds it pretty quickly.

Side note on the proprietary statement made above. Both Lotus Notes and Exchange are proprietary. ARMS was a custom solution (and probably not proprietary) built because Lotus Notes didn't have an archiving system or a good enough of one. ARMS was dumped in the move to Exchange. Exchange also doesn't have a good archiving system but the Bush CIO/Admin decided it wasn't worth the money to build a new custom solution (ECRMS). So they just didn't and all those emails got deleted (or that's what they say).

I think this is plausible, Bush has a history of ignoring requirements, pressing ahead, and f*cking things up. From war to economy to basic IT.

Posted by: eparch on February 26, 2008 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

That really has to be a fake Al above. That's just too weak.

And at a minimum there should be numerous archival copies of the emails database on cd or tape, no matter the format of the database. Off site even. Formats can be dealt with forensically. My guess is they were intentionally disposed of.

And, unfortunately, the business model employed by this administration was that of the Texas Rangers.

Posted by: Nat on February 26, 2008 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone that thinks moving to Exchange is a positive event doesn`t have a clue.

Exchange is complete crap. As is the Bush Handlers, Inc. crowd.

Amateurs, all of them.

As an aside, I`ve been doing computer stuff longer than Microsoft has existed so I DO know much about that which I pontificate on.

Total amateur hour they are.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw

Posted by: daCascadian on February 26, 2008 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

Complete and utter baloney. It all depends on your definition of a "good" archiving system. It might be true that the Ronko-matic 2000 Exchange (ECRMS) wasn't a good fit, but that is not the same thing as saying that they couldn't archive email, It might of been a lot of grunt work to get a certain email from a certain someone on a certain date - but that's what you pay entry level IT people for. Even a semi decent IT person with a smattering of programming/script writing skills could come up with a basic system to do the job. I think the most obvious answer was that the administration just did not want to keep the email for a number of reasons (some pretty freaking obvious) and used the "its all too complicated" line as a convenient excuse.

Posted by: freemti on February 26, 2008 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

As others have noted:

a) There are plenty of companies providing exchange backup solutions
b) There are plenty of companies that have instituted corporate archiving to satisfy various regulations

IF IT WAS THE LAW THAT ARCHIVES BE MAINTAINED, THEN IT WAS CRIMINAL THAT ALLOWED A SOLUTION TO BE USED THAT DID NOT OFFER ARCHIVING.

And yeah, exchange is just as proprietary as notes.

Posted by: jerry on February 26, 2008 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

As MS is so fond of telling everyone, Exchange is business-class email. You install it and it gives you the business.

Posted by: whalt on February 26, 2008 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

Both email systems are SMTP compliant. Notes databases are very simple things. Exchange is just an email platform, and is pretty damned open. This is just a lie. And a transparently false lie.

Posted by: jayackroyd on February 26, 2008 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

I just spent the evening watching a replay of Waxman's Committee hearings, with so much time taken up by Republicans making ridiculous, partisan excuses for the administration, and Waxman so patiently keeping on task, and others such as soft-spoken, frightened looking archives people, counsels, and white house representatives testifying in such a scairdy cat way, since it is clear they tremendously fear the Rove white house and reprisals. Shuddering with every whisper of the words "Karl Rove," or RNC.
I could hardly take it. Absolutely nothing accomplished because the white house has done nothing to capture missing emails. It's a joke.
It was a frighteningly corrupt cat and mouse display.

Posted by: consider wisely always on February 26, 2008 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, ALL messages from Blackberries go through RIM's server in Toronto for compression. Just sayin' is all....

Posted by: doug r on February 26, 2008 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

"....Payton testified Tuesday before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the Bush administration had tried to institute its own archiving system, known as the Electronic Communications Records Management System, but ultimately failed."

Also known as E-Crumbs.

Posted by: Ross Best on February 26, 2008 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

From an IT perspective, leaving the IBM notes server to move to the proprietary Exchange was the WRONG thing to do.

Back then Exchange was half baked, it still is. You can't do serious records management on it without 3rd party solutions (fixes).

From an IT perspective, they must have had a project plan, get the migration project records. They probably called MS or a external vendor for help a bunch of times, get the call records and billable time records.

No one in IT would dream of migrating an email system for such an important client as the White House without a signed off project plan.

Probably they kicked out the pros and put in some kids who helped them 'fix' voting machines.

Posted by: JamesM on February 26, 2008 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Probably they kicked out the pros and put in some Crony Big Donor's kids who helped them 'fix' voting machines.

FTFY.

Posted by: jerry on February 26, 2008 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. Just wow.
The President of the United States flies in a plane that can withstand two direct AA missile hits, but he can't read his old email.
The President of the United States can call for a manned mission to Mars, but he can't read his old email.
The President of the United States has the power to organize and execute a unilateral, illegal invasion of a sovereign nation, against the will of virtually everyone else in the world, but he can't read his old email.
Seriously, these criminals aren't even really trying anymore. This wasn't even a good lie. A good lie would have had "little-endian" or better yet "Turing Decidable" in it. But "ARMS wasn't compatible with Exchange"? Honestly, it's just patently and obviously false. And even if that were the case, couldn't someone just custom-design a system to make the ARMS data Exchange-accessible? Jesus H Christ, I'd write it for ten grand. And finally even if there was absolutely no way to make the old ARMS data available through the new system, was the only other option to DESTROY THE DATA??? And then take a hammer to the hardware, and set it on fire, and bury it in Antarctica? REALLY???
God Almighty, these people are the very worst.

Posted by: Govt Skeptic on February 26, 2008 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

So for literally years, no one was alerted to the problem in the archive system.
Not one employee of the Whitehouse ever found they needed an archived email and found it didn't exist.
Not one employee of the Whitehouse (even after that guy was found spying on Cheney's office) was ever put under suspicion with the FBI requesting copies of their emails?

Yeah. Right.

Posted by: NYT on February 26, 2008 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

It was the speechwriters' fault.

George emailed his notes for his State of the Union address, and one of the writers noticed that "nuclear" had a typo - an extra "u" making it "nuculear."

So he tried to delete that extra "u," but somehow ended up deleting all the old emails instead.

And the worst part is, they never did fix that typo. So George has been mispronouncing nuclear for the last seven years.

Posted by: Peter Bautista on February 26, 2008 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm, maybe Bush thought that Nixon was a wussy with his "seven-minute" gap. "I want a seven year gap, heh! They'll never catch me then!"

Posted by: Doctor Jay on February 27, 2008 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Senator McCain, do you think its important to keep archival records of all Whitehouse communications?"

"You do? Would your administration prosecute those individuals who have failed to keep archival records of current White House communication, in spite of their knowledge of the law?"

Posted by: Doctor Jay on February 27, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

"....Payton testified Tuesday before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the Bush administration had tried to institute its own archiving system, known as the Electronic Communications Records Management System, but ultimately failed."

Also known as E-Crumbs.

Correction: it is pronounced E-Crimes.

Posted by: Ross Best on February 27, 2008 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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