WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3, 2022
We don't all know what happened: In our view, Kevin Drum's extensive work on the effects of exposure to lead is just about the most interesting work the Internet has ever produced.
(Also, see his cover report for Mother Jones on this topic. For an overview and link, click here.)
We say this because we don't intend what follows to seem like pointless snark. We mean it to be an important example concerning an important basic principle.
SNEED AND COHEN (8/2/22): The Defense Department wiped the phones of top departing DOD and Army officials at the end of the Trump administration, deleting any texts from key witnesses to events surrounding the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, according to court filings.
[The officials include] former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel, and former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, among other prominent Pentagon officials.
Assuming CNN's report is accurate, this means that texts are unavailable for various officials and employees "across multiple agencies." Texts are unavailable from the Secret Service, from the Department of Homeland Security, and now from the Department of Defense.
Now for our main point. After Kevin posts the quoted material, he asks a very good question:
DRUM (8/2/22): The Pentagon's explanation is that this is routine: When anyone leaves DOD they turn in their phone and the phone is wiped. I must have at least a few readers who have worked for DOD and then left. Is this true?
Is that statement by the DOD true? Sensible minds want to know!
We mention this because it differs from Kevin's reaction to the initial reporting about the Secret Service. We all know what's going on here, he said, perhaps prematurely, in a post at the time.
At the time, we noted that we didn't know what was going on, and we doubted that Kevin did either. We adumbrated a very important principle:
Novelizations are instantaneous. But you have to wait, perhaps a long time, if you want to know the actual facts.
All across the blue tribe dial, corporate hustlers spread instant novelizations about the Secret Service texts. Quite a few facts were disappeared in service to Storyline.
(Since that time, it has become more and more clear that the Inspector General who started the flap about the Secret Service is highly unreliable. We have neither space enough, nor time, to list all the other facts which have been shoved to the side so people like Lawrence and Joe can sell us the angry rants which serve their preferred cable product, scandal.)
Kevin has received the following comment to his new post. We don't know how much of this is accurate:
COMMENT (8/3/22): I am on the fence. I've been in IT for decades much of it in the DC area. Incompetency is definitely not out of the question for much of the data loss due to wipes. It was only in 2017 that texts were deemed as records requiring retention and agencies had until 2019 to comply. Who knows whether such policies were actually being used in 2021?
Also the wipes are not the problem. That is normal operating procedure. The problem is that the retention requirement says the data must be retained in an external system. It would be a pretty crappy system if losing the phone meant losing the records.
This is clear from https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-36/chapter-XII/subchapter-B/part-1236/subpart-B, "Agencies must incorporate controls into the electronic information system or integrate them into a recordkeeping system that is external to the information system itself (see § 1236.20 of this part)."
In other words the kerfuffle around wiping is a smokescreen.
To our non tech-savvy ear, that seems to suggest the possibility that a lot of agencies have possibly never bothered constructing an "external system" for automatically retaining these records.
That said, is any of that comment accurate? We have no idea.
Kevin started out by saying that everyone knew. In his new post, he says that he himself doesn't.
Most likely, that was true all along. Nor is it obvious that we the rubes will ever know what has been happening here. We know of no reason for thinking that our press corps is up to the substantial challenge of settling such a question.
Lawrence and Joe and Mika and Claire pushed instant Storyline. Everybody else joined in. It was "good television," but it was also good solid fun.
Lawrence and Joe pushed the one product served by today's "cable news." Can our floundering, tribalized nation possibly hope to survive it?
Recalling a different day: For Drum's cover report on exposure to lead, you can just click here. Much more work was offered online.