April 13th, 2007

katie nom nom

White House Email Scandal

I started following this when it began to rear its ugly head last week and, unlike the US Attorney thing, it really bugs me. The summary is pretty simple:

There's this thing called The Hatch Act of 1939, or the An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities. This was back when we were creative about naming our acts. It was brought about by Republicans who felt that the Administration of FDR was running political activities out the back door of the White House. It is very, very, very, very clear what you can and cannot do as a Federal Employee. It has been challenged at the Supreme Court several times, but both challenges were defeated. Just like any other workplace, you have Free Speech and then you have HR, and HR wins.

If you are lucky enough to land a position in the White House, you will learn that:

A. The White House is a highly classified environment.
B. All White House staffers must sign compliance agreements through HR stating they have read and understood terms of usage of electronic communications of all employees especially as it applies to the Hatch Act.
C. All external chat rooms and free email sites are blocked by the IT at the web proxy (run, I believe, by White House but it might be DoD) so employees are "encouraged" to use proper systems for communications.

This is pretty run of the mill IT Enterprise Security stuff here and, it seems to me, if you're working in the White House, you're a little too busy to sit around on MySpace anyway. So that tells me a few interesting things:

A. Certain White House staffers have been logging in to unauthorized web sites and communicating nominally secure information through unauthorized mobile devices like phones and Blackberries.
B. The White House either explicitly set up external sites designed to fool filters or ordered filters to be removed so internal staffers could access their political email systems.
C. The RNC and maintainers of certain sites (gwb.com, georgewbush.com, etc.) complied on their end with this activity.

This whole thing bugs me. Not just because it justifies every tin-hat theory in existence, because now you can hang everything from war profiteering to rigging elections to communicating with aliens on some 5 million now purged emails. Not just because the very last shreds of the White House's credibility floats away on the breeze. It bugs me because these people want to read our email, harrass us at the airport, search our homes without warrant, take people away in the night to camps in Cuba, and database our every move for dubious datamining activities in the name of "National Security" and then open up holes in their own firewall to float TS/SCI classified information out on to the happy open unsecured Internet and through the servers of their political hack buddies. Apparently, "National Security" is for other people -- all people except those who actually are in control of National Security.

It also tells me that people working in the White House have been spending almost no time bothering themselves with running the country and lots and lots of time bothering themselves with political hackery. They've obviously put thought and time into setting up a full back-door system so they could continue what they enjoyed and let the country (and Iraq and Afghanistan...) decay into ruin.

This should trigger a massive firing event. They violated their clearances. They violated Federal Law. No doubt the little pieces of paper their signed upon receiving the employee handbook in their files in HR all state "non-compliance with these regulations or willful avoidance of rules will result in immediate termination." If anyone else anywhere pulled the same thing, they'd be very much fired. But once again, the White House, being into their great nepotism joy, will maybe let some poor IT guy go who was no doubt forced to put in the holes in the first place and announce that the problem is fixed and it will never happen again really honestly truly.

In other news, the letter from Patrick Leahy to the White House is hilarious. I can almost see the clenched fist and the grinding teeth!