Blown To Bits

A Test of Koan 6

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 by Harry Lewis

“Nothing Goes Away,” we say in Blown to Bits. What about the emails of George Bush and Dick Cheney? As the Washington Post reported yesterday,

Federal law requires outgoing White House officials to provide the Archives copies of their records, a cache estimated at more than 300 million messages and 25,000 boxes of documents depicting some of the most sensitive policymaking of the past eight years.

Some of those messages were sent using accounts of the Republican National Committee, it turns out. They are subject to the law, but the RNC seems to be having trouble finding them. And the Vice-President claims that the only records he has to turn over are those related to tasks Bush specifically assigned him, not advice he offered voluntarily, for example, or messages related to legislation. That claim is going to be decided in court, but of course a lot can happen to disks and tapes while the legal issue is being hashed out.

It is awfully hard to get rid of all copies of those emails, from all back-ups. Even if they are “deleted,” a good computer forensics effort might be able to recover them in part. A classic case of the digital explosion — where we can’t live without electronic communications, and then don’t want to leave any footprints. This will be a test of both laws and wills.

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