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Friday, March 16, 2007

Email, Politics, And The Media

I will let others better qualified than me comment on the political implications of the recent furore over the firing of several US Attorneys. But one interesting aspect of the story from my perspective has been seeing email front-and-center in the news cycle.

Everyone from CNN to the Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal has led with “email-driven” stories, with headlines like “Rove, Gonzales discussed firings, e-mails show”. On March 14, the Journal (subscription required) provided this chart and reported:

Emails between White House aides and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's chief of staff show an orchestrated effort to fire several U.S. attorneys, counter to Mr. Gonzales's previous assertions that the firings weren't instigated by the White House.

Today, the Washington Post led with (bold and underlines are added by me):

The Justice Department advocated in early 2005 removing up to 20 percent of the nation's U.S. attorneys whom it considered to be "underperforming" but retaining prosecutors who were "loyal Bushies," according to e-mails released by Justice late yesterday.

The three e-mails also show that presidential adviser Karl Rove asked the White House counsel's office in early January 2005 whether it planned to proceed with a proposal to fire all 93 federal prosecutors. Officials said yesterday that Rove was opposed to that idea but wanted to know whether Justice planned to carry it out.

The e-mails provide new details about the early decision-making that led to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year, indicating that Justice officials endorsed a larger number of firings than has been disclosed and that Rove expressed an early interest in the debate over the removals.

Setting aside the politics of all this, the press is using email to address two questions: who was involved, and are their public statements accurate? This is very similar to how I see email being used every day in the corporate world. Any legal proceeding or corporate investigation centers on understanding who knew what and when – and email is the place lawyers and investigators go to find that out.

Why? Because the beauty of email is that it is the source of truth, the indisputable statement of record. No need to ask people for incomplete recollections, no need to filter out the spin; just analyze their email and you will find out who did what – and perhaps even get a window into how they decided to do it.

1 comment:

Ray said...

you can get free access to the wall street jounral at: http://news.congoo.com

This was on cnbc last week and I thought it was a great tip.