When a massive quantity of White House information is supposedly lost--four years and five million emails--the truth is that somebody made it happen, somebody wanted it all lost and did what was necessary to make it so.
In today's world, "lost" is what happens to socks in the washing machine, not what happens to political communication in the White House.
The question to ask in the case of the missing emails--four years and five million missing emails--is not, as the White House would have it, "Whose screw up resulted in the information being lost?" but the more accurate question, "Who gave the order to make it lost?"
We live in a world where a twelve-year-old with broadband and an iBook can find anything on the Internet in less time than it takes to microwave some mac and cheese. Ten minutes later, that same kid can download more pages onto the iPod jacked into their sweatshirt than in all the books in their school library. Maybe forty years ago we lived in a "global village," but we're in a "Google village," now--and we get there on the Fios freeway. This is not a world where "lost" and "information" are two concepts that make much sense.
If my house catches fire and collapses on my laptop, I can take the molten mass that remains to a specialist who can retrieve all my information and tell me the the name of the last person who sent me an instant message. "Lost" does not apply.
In this world of high-speed access, giga-downloads and cell-phone searches--for the White House to claim that they "screwed up" and lost four years and five million emails is to claim that they have transported the entire planet to the year 1971--back to a world where information is not something forever waiting to be found, recovered and reclaimed, but something dusty and yellow stacked in cardboard boxes. That was the world of "lost," not this world, not today.
In the world of 2007, information does not just vanish. Either somebody makes it go away or it lingers on far longer than any of us want. Either somebody decides they want information to disappear or that information sticks around like flypaper. If information is no longer searchable, recoverable, discoverable or downloadable, it is not because someone "screwed up," but because someone with power gave an order to someone with skills, "Make this information go away. I don't want some twelve-year-old kid with broadband and an iBook finding it."
"Lost" is not what happens to White House information when someone "screwed up." "Lost" is what happens when the orders of someone with power are carried out successfully, when the plan of someone with power is followed. And when the information is "lost," that person with power does not say to him- or herself,"Oh, no. I screwed up." That person with power says, "Good job. Thanks for taking care of that."
The question I want to hear asked over and over and over again is very simple:
Who gave the order to make the emails go away?
Not "Who lost them" or "What happened that they got lost" or "who messed up," but "Who gave the order?" "Which person with power decided to make the emails--four years and five million emails--vanish, disappear, go away forever?"
Who was it?
Who made the choice?
Who took the action?
Who picked up the phone?
Who held the meeting?
Who confirmed the order?
Who followed through?
Who made it so?
Who used their influence?
Who used their power?
Who made all this information "lost"?
By this time Monday morning, America will know the White House is controlling the frame on the missing email story--four years and five million emails--if the majority of news outlets in the country are talking about the lost or missing data more than they are talking about the person or people who made it so.
The key to this story is people.
The offense in this story is a mess of potentially illegal acts.
The fact that information is missing is an outcome, a symptom.
The question America wants answered is "Who did it?"
(cross posted from, Frameshop)
Follow Jeffrey Feldman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JeffreyFeldman