Monday, April 09, 2007

RNC e-mails itself into trouble

I sympathize with Republicans on this one.

Several senior White House Republicans were given Republican National Committee laptops and pagers to use alongside their government-issued equipment, an effort to avoid charges that government gear was used for campaign purposes.

But recent revelations in the Scooter Libby trial and the fired prosecutors brouhaha suggest that the computers may have been used to keep sensitive information out of official government archives.

"The system was created with the best intentions," said former Assistant White House Press Secretary Adam Levine, who was assigned an RNC laptop and BlackBerry when he worked at the White House in 2002. But, he added, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week formally requested access to broad categories of RNC-White House e-mails.

Waxman told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that a separate "e-mail system for high-ranking White House officials would raise serious questions about violations of the Presidential Records Act," which requires the preservation and ultimate disclosure of e-mails about official government business.

It's easy to see how something like that could happen inadvertently. You're e-mailing back and forth during the day -- sometimes official business, sometimes party business. It can be hard to keep things straight, and be rigorous about when to use which e-mail account. I blog under a pseudonym, and there have been several times when I almost sent out a personal e-mail from my blog e-mail address, and vice versa.

It's a problem that's only going to get worse, with the proliferation of instant messaging and text messaging and all the other ways we have of communicating. Someday a war will be started entirely through IM, I'm sure of it, with the final line being "That's it! Look out ur wndw, @zzh@t. Whos laffing now?"

That said, having set up the parallel systems, it was incumbent on the administration to make sure they were used properly. Preservation of government records is no small thing. So at a minimum, the administration was careless and deserves to endure some scrutiny and bad press to ensure they fix the problem.

Worst case would be if they deliberately used alternate e-mail addresses to get around the records laws and try to avoid accountability. That would go beyond careless and into real scandal territory. There's as yet no proof that that's the case, but there is once again enough smoke to warrant an investigation. If nothing else, we want to be sure that the official communications are properly recovered and archived for posterity.

There's a limit to what sort of probe should be allowed, though. Waxman is essentially asking to look at internal RNC communications, which would be like the Soviet Union having a mole in the CIA Director's office. The administration has only itself to blame for muddying the communication waters; but any subpoena request should be narrowly crafted to find only misdirected government communications, and not turn into a license to tromp through the RNC's databases.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, right. Almost no one believes that Henry Waxman's intention is NOT to tromp through the RNC communications. That's laughable on it's face.

So---then he and the rest of the Dem leadership should turn over and make public ALL their personal communications on their personal laptops, etc. Think they will?

Sorry---but if it's personal computers, they have the right to discuss anything they want to discuss....just like we do here. We don't live in Communist China, you know!

JP5

4/10/2007 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, remember Memogate? That was when Democrats on the Judiciary Committee----Leahy, Kennedy, and Schumer threw a huge fit when some Republican staffers came across and made public their e-mails to and from political organizations, such as the NAACP and others.
E-mails in which Bush's nominees were referred to as "Nazi's" and where it was Miguel Estrada was described as being "especially dangerous because he was Latino." Then there was the suggestion by the head of the NAACP to Kennedy to "delay" one of the nominees until a Minority Rights case was decided. And it was...and it was decided 5-4.

Remember? Those same Dems turned all that around from the subject matter in the e-mails to..."How dare someone get into my private e-mails and make them public?" Even though it was THEIR staffers who had not bothered to make them secure.

Oh well, in typical fashion with the Dem leaders it's more hypocrisy and double standards.

JP5

4/10/2007 1:47 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

So---then he and the rest of the Dem leadership should turn over and make public ALL their personal communications on their personal laptops, etc. Think they will?

Has it been suggested that the Republican leadership do so? Don't mix apples and oranges.

Sorry---but if it's personal computers, they have the right to discuss anything they want to discuss....just like we do here. We don't live in Communist China, you know!

They aren't personal computers. They are government computers and RNC computers. And government business is supposed to be conducted on the record, so to speak -- even if that record is sealed for 25 years.

They can discuss anything they want to discuss, I agree. But they cannot hide it from the official record.

BTW, remember Memogate?

Yes, and again, you're mixing apples and oranges. The issue here is using private e-mail accounts to keep discussions out of the official record. That is not what occurred in Memogate, which was a matter of Republicans accessing information they knew they had no right to.

Sure, blame the Dems for leaving the data unsecure -- but that doesn't excuse the theft of that data, just like my leaving my wallet on the sidewalk doesn't make it okay for someone to take it.

4/10/2007 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your own link says this:

"White House officials said the system had been used appropriately and was modeled after one used by the Clinton White House political office in the late 1990s.

"The regular staffers who interface with political organizations have a separate e-mail account, and that's entirely appropriate," said White House spokesman Scott M. Stanzel. "The practice is followed to avoid inadvertent violations of the law."


So, if Clinton's WH had the same kind of system back in the late 1990's....did Burton supoena the Clinton laptops and e-mails to try to see what THEY were discussing??? If not, why not? After all, there was a huge court case going on PLUS impeachment proceedings.

And I just knew you would find it "apples vs. oranges" when it came to Dem leaders. But it is funny how then, the Dems admitted while their e-mails were "unseemly" they didn't prove any criminality. Well guess what??? Same thing here. If you're just guessing something might be illegal and don't have any proof of such--you have nothing.

JP5

4/10/2007 8:05 PM  

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