Whomever you support for president, I hope you’ll consider joining me in asking the candidates for a pledge that they will enforce data integrity policies at least as rigorous as expected of publicly traded companies, and that they’ll open their administration to public scrutiny of most public policy.
After eight years of an presidency that considers itself immune to the simplest email storage requirements, the United States could use some insight into how decisions are made at the White House. More than 1,000 days worth of email are missing from the Bush years, in some cases entire weeks’ worth of mail relating to the leaking of CIA operative Virgina Plame’s identity and the application of torture have disappeared. With Bush Administration officials continuing to drag their feet on implementation of email archiving systems, we are threatened with another four or eight years of government operating in the shadows, because an incoming president could blame the faulty storage systems they found for future omissions.
Granted, the Clinton administration hasn’t thrown open the doors to its archives, but, at least, they maintained a record of intra-administration communication, even at a time when email was barely mature and archival requirements were uncertain. It’s a standard we should expect of every administration, more so now that there are well-known best practices for records-retention available for public companies, investment banks and government agencies.
“I don’t want you reading my personal stuff,” President Bush has told the press when asked about why his administration has failed to comply with records-retention laws during his time in office. Unfortunately, Mr. President, nothing you do at your desk, or in the airplanes, cars and buildings we give you to use as president, is “your personal stuff.” It is the property of the people. As voters, we must demand greater accountability of the next president.
Just as a company needs to be able to review its internal communications to find out why it made mistakes, the U.S. government should be able to benefit from the experience of previous administrations, as well as the scholarly study of records, so that we constantly improve the handling of day-to-day and crisis situations. Democracy demands that we have the ability to review what our leaders have discussed as they decide on our behalf how money will be spent, what policies will be enforced and why and when we go to war.
So, let’s pull together as Americans and demand more of our political leaders. Join me in urging the candidates to commit to store all email and documents created or used by their staffs during their tenure in the White House. Regardless of the winner in the upcoming election, the infrastructure for the people’s participation in, and review of, executive decisions is ready for a president that will honor the people’s right to know what has been done in their name.
Logon to your candidate’s site to urge them to take the data integrity and transparency pledge: