back to article Dubya archives White House email by hand

How does the George W. Bush administration archive its email? It asks someone to manually copy the contents of an Exchange folder. In a Congressional Report (PDF) turned up by Ars Technica, White House Chief Information Officer Teresa Payton admits that W and crew haven't used automated backup since 2002, when they tossed out …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Contractor for't here---

    And this doesn't surprise me at all. I once worked a job where the archival system involved printing the email out and faxing it back to the state HQ, where it would be collected from the fax machine, and manually flat-bed scanned as a jpeg into a common server by an intern.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    Wow. I've worked for financial companies, and other public companies, and email archiving is routine, secure, and in many cases required. This type of archival system would be grounds for huge fines from the SEC, if not landing a director or two in the pokey.

    If I were a more suspicious person, I'd say that this sort of system might be created to intentionally obfuscate backups to try to give certain people plausable deniability for things that go missing. Things that some people might never want to see the light of day...

    OK, I AM a suspicious person, and I suspect that's exactly what happened...

  3. yeah, right.

    how convenient

    Just like Microsoft's email non-retention policy, what is destroyed can't be used against you in a court of law. Pity American laws about such things are so weak. If the evidence is there they can be tried, but when it's missing, even if there was a legal requirement to keep the information, then suddenly the justice system just gives up.

  4. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Contractor for't here---

    I once paid taxes to a government that stores all its data in CDs in a mailbag somewhere, hopefully on British territory.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Another contractor here...

    And while I'm not surprised either, this kind of inefficiency can be found in governments everywhere. The fact is that when the most important motivator (money) is removed from the equation, any organization will become lazy and wasteful. There's nothing like a little competition and profit motive to keep people honest. That's why governments a.) enjoy their monopolies, and b.) can't do anything right.

  6. heystoopid


    Oh such actions and activities suddenly reminded me of the very tragic figure from William Shakespeare's play of Macbeth trying to atone for his sins before the end , but he still could not erase the either the stain or the infamy of his folly and greed from himself and his family for eternity !

    Try as he may , he will never be able to wash the blood from his hands of the millions of innocents killed in his name to create the illusion of democracy in the new empire he tried to create in his own flawed image for generations to come as history will only record all his visible many bad deeds and legacy of shame from this time forth !

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I am in shock

    I agree with GWB's mob - bin Lotus Notes

    Time to check myslef into funny farm :p

  8. Daniel B.
    Thumb Down

    They dumped Notes for Exchange???

    That just explains how retarded the Dubya administration is. I wouldn't let MicroSoft stuff even near official government stuff. I thought the White House e-mail was actually SECURE...

  9. Dustin
    Paris Hilton

    Sweet mother of Christ!!!!!

    Any first year IT professional would know better. FFS!!!! I'm sure this group of inbreds are in the same club as the fools that allowed classified information systems to touch the internets in the Pentagon. Maybe I should go to congress and get the head honcho seat for governmental IT infrastructures. If I took that office (yeah there are more than one orgs I'm sure) I could improve the situation by deploying Etch-a-Scetches and unplugging the damned internet. "Sorry Johnny Bigbrother, no youtube when you should be looking for ways to to save my tax money or get us out of a stupid war."

    Paris: because she gets F'd like our glorious republic has been.

  10. Chris
    Paris Hilton


    If they had tilted the fax machine over so that the incoming faxes slid out and fell into an automatic document feeder on the scanner, would that count as a system?

    Paris, because .jpg files were mentioned

  11. Anonymous Coward

    AWOL and the Rapture Ready Administration

    That's one thing about our current administration. They're just a laugh a minute.

  12. James Butler


    What the hell was that?!?

    @yeah, right

    That's why we passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 ( If they don't keep those emails, they go to jail ... unless, as you point out, they're W and Fiends.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    404-Gate here we come

    yeah but they delibratly went out of thier way to ensure the data was going to be lost(accidenlty [on purpose] your honour) of course.

    i wonder if it will turn out to be called 404-file not found gate, as so much (incrimminating mail has gone awol).

    i guarantee before they leave office, they will have had an accident with a copy of wipe-disk across the entire executive staffers laptop and desktop pc's.

    (oops, sorry we thought it was booting a bit odd, but we just thought it was MS doing an update).

    Cough, cough.. yeah right......

    mines the one with the pockets full of harddrives(with those pesky hard to remove executive office seals on)...


  14. Pierre

    My dream

    A story that allows both Dubbya-bashing and MS bullying.

    Too much joy. Haaa... haaa... my heart...

  15. Goat Jam

    @Daniel B

    Don't forget, they would have got a free MS showbag from Bill after they got into power and muzzled the DoJ in the anti-trust case.

    "Thanks George, here have a 100,000 seat Exchange license as a token of our gratitude" - Bill Gates, circa 2002*

  16. PaulD
    Dead Vulture

    I'm going to miss him come Jan 2009

    just like the Australian elections last year, the loss of John Howard has screwed any chance of political satire....

  17. Walter Brown

    I wanted to post a long and witty comment


    but i cant stop laughing long enough...

    can we get a "little yellow bus" icon, please... to save us the trouble of having to say it... fucking retarded!!

  18. heystoopid


    @james have you forgotten that little sub clause he always appends when he signs a bill into the US Federal Law prior to gazetting , which basically says "suckers this does apply to me !" .

  19. Franz Gruber

    Like Nixon

    I was sure Tricky Dick would retain his title as dumbest and most unscrupulous president. Now I'm not so sure.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I work for a UK blue chip and it is not any different

    I work for a UK blue chip (often featured on the register regarding one well known recent trial). This is the official system of archiving and on top of all it is not just an intern, it is you doing it yourself. No other email or archive trail whatsoever. You also are supposed to destroy (Microsoft style) any email over 6 months and most of the employees are on MSFT exchange with 50MB quota just so to make sure that they do not go data squirreling.

    As a result when OFT or the industry regulator comes with inconvenient questions you can just point to the document destruction policy or blame a specific employee. Works a treat.

    Paris, as she knows how to keep an archive secure

  21. Trix
    IT Angle

    Oh dear

    To the person wondering why Notes was dumped for Exchange, there is this quaint notion of "usability". There is nothing significantly wrong with Exchange's security model either (as long as you're not allowing stupid things like POP access with no authentication).

    As for journaling, that's a standard method for retaining a copy of every message that passes through a message store. They all get fired off to a journal mailbox. But not backing up that (any?) mailbox using standard retention times or using any one of half-a-dozen SOx-compliant email archivers, and moving it to slower or nearline storage using readily available technology (like HP EVA or CLARIION or blah blah)? Well, I suppose it stops all those pesky auditors actually finding anything.

  22. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Don't Think too Hard .... IT can get Real Ugly even when Just and Deserving

    MeThinks they'll need some exceptional Talent, which they have shown no signs of having, to pull them out of all of those gathering Intelligence Black Holes. And boy is it bad for their Future and all of their Friends and Hangers On too, if they don't get it sorted and work AIMiracle.

    Can you Imagine their Reception in one of their Own Prisons when Feather Nesting and Callous Disregard of Suffering at the Public Expense for Public Expenses for Private Abuse, is Proven.

    No wonder Tony abandoned Ship and left Prudence behind..... for HMG is similarly blighted I'm sure?

  23. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    > AWOL

    American dubyah/ our lot.

    Most accident prone bunch of tossers in a ...well ...what was the last lot like...

    ....I seem to remember a sigh of relief.

    Pity that with governments the only opposition is either hypocrisy or warfare. There is no such thing as market forces with it. It's either monopoly or bust. But how do we always manage to pick yet more outrageous losers EVERY time?

    Our sock puppets bought peace in Ireland from the scion of the evil sod that started The Troubles a thousand years ago. How about that for a coincidence.

    But look what we paid for it: An inheritance that looks set to spread the holy war all through the near east. And there is no stopping it.

  24. Andrew Smith

    thinking of Nixon

    It was accepted that his secretary accidentally wiped 15 mins of incriminating evidence from a tape. So with that as a precedence forgetting to rescan the documents after printing them should be ok and keep you out of jail!

  25. Mark

    MS Exchange doesn't do backups?

    Wasn't one of the huge things touted about MS's changes to exchange (and the inclusion of SharePoint et al in the stack) was that there would be a retention policy and read policy so that you would keep emails for as long as (and NO LONGER!!!, see "the halloween documents" for why this is a requirement...!) required. DRM was included in the OS (and demanded to be in the document format, hence MSOOXML being the only option because it has a field for DRM, unlike ODF which could be, oh, I don't know, ENCRYPTED with an expiring key externally held) so that deletion prolicies could be assured because the stuff couldn't be exported.

    And it turns out it can't even do a flipping backup????

  26. Spleen

    Re: I Aprove

    "But how do we always manage to pick yet more outrageous losers EVERY time?"

    Only outrageous losers stand for government.

  27. Paul Charters
    IT Angle


    Why is anyone surprised? If you DON'T have a communications system in government that doesn't have huge gaping holes in it, how can you conveniently lose or manipulate data and conversations?

    Imagine if everything WAS stored properly...people would have to tell the truth and admit things!

  28. Steve

    Re: Re: I Aprove

    ""But how do we always manage to pick yet more outrageous losers EVERY time?"

    Only outrageous losers stand for government."

    You want representative government, you got it!

    Who do you think are voting these people in - the intelligent and rational?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Stunning (AC)

    "If I were a more suspicious person, I'd say that this sort of system might be created to intentionally obfuscate backups to try to give certain people plausable deniability for things that go missing. Things that some people might never want to see the light of day..."

    Boy are you mistaken - W would never lie to people. He is a god fearing man and does not drink. The Iraq war had nothing to do with oil and was all about WMDs. The Bush administration has been fiscally conservative - and clearly listens to scientists about important issues.

    No really - what gave him away? Was it the slightly puzzled goof grin?

  30. amanfromMars Silver badge

    A Kiss of the Blarney Stone .......for some Olde Time Spells.

    "Our sock puppets bought peace in Ireland from the scion of the evil sod that started The Troubles a thousand years ago. How about that for a coincidence." ... By I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects Posted Thursday 1st May 2008 08:05 GMT

    Actually, the paramilitaries gave Peace to Ireland and you will discover that they have found Peace and its stealthy levers of Power and Control to their Liking, as they match perfectly their Navvy Temperament and Love of a Gamble, an Intoxicating Drink, a Colleen and a Party when all can Enjoy themselves.

    After all, you don't build a Wonder of the World and expect the Knowledge that had her Lead the World, to sink to the bottom of the Sea and remain there, do you. There's a lot going on in the Emerald Isle that will amaze you, and even more amazing is that which will not be so readily available, requiring as it does, Full Disclosure Security clearances if you Need to Know and/or should want to know.

    The Grass Roots of ITs Society learnt more from their decades/centuries of Troubles than you know or have been made aware, and it is possible that many may never in their lifetimes be clever enough [and that will not necessarily have anything to do with intelligence] to know exactly what they have learnt, such is ITs Purple Patch Magic and Enlightened Ways.

    But IT will Share them with You, for they are Worth Nothing kept Hidden and Create Priceless Fortunes Shared and Countless Further Fortunes whenever said Fortunes are Shared In Spends.

    I Kid U Not. Just watch these HyperRadioProActive Spaces ...... Virtualised Worlds with a Paddy Lead Following ....... for there are many Sins and Omissions to Gratefully Atone for and Clear from Conscience and/or Memory and Replace with Innovative Perspective and Perception Management.

  31. Brad

    reminds me of another whitehouse email scheme...

    where staffers were told to use their Republican party email system rather than the .gov to avoid the archiving, public disclosure, etc.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Another gummint contractor here-

    Not so long ago, I deduced that the way documents got onto the Federal Register web site at the Government Printing Office was:

    electronic document sent to GPO (probably in WP 5.1 format);

    all formatting stripped and saved as plain text;

    plain text document printed;

    paper copy scanned;

    OCR run on scanner output;

    all ~ characters (commonly used by OCR to indicate unrecognized character) removed;

    result (electronic again) fed into desktop publishing program to produce a PDF of the printed FR, and also copied into a web page as <pre> text.

    That is the only explanation of how our URLs (containing ~ characters) could get messed up each and every time.

  33. Patrick O'Reilly
    Paris Hilton


    Notes ain't no prize pony but it does what it does well.

    Shouldn't the White house be like other large organisations where there are 3 - 4 mailing systems all "interconnecting" via the external interweb?

    Paris: Because she's a loose as the White House's mail policy.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps Dubya could do the archiving himself?

    Archive this one, delete those... archive these two, delete this one...

    Kinda like a court transcript that only includes the defence statements.

  35. Snert Lee


    A lack of data backup only counts as a failure when your goals include having a working data backup.

    What would be really cute is to have Google set them all up with Gmail accounts (and thus quietly implement perpetual data retention.)

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