New Scandal Renews Old Record-Keeping Issues

An Excerpt From The Archives.  This article pertains to the new field of computer evidence in criminal investigations, and how they proceeded to enact new legistlation and rules for that specific type of action.

Various websites pertaining to electronic security have cropped up helping people to secure their data and make their computers less hacker and virus friendly.  But it’s interesting to look back 30 some years and see how the information age formed and how rudimentary things were back in the day.


Some pundits feel it unfair to equate the Iran-Contra fiasco to Watergate, pointing out the many dissimilarities in the two cases. They’re probably right, especially when it comes to tracking down the documentation of what really happened.

In this regard Watergate was fairly simple, involving only voice recording systems. It has been said that Nixon could have salvaged his presidency if only he had destroyed the Oval Office tapes early in the game. Instead, the complete record was uncovered, except for the infamous 18 1/2-minute gap in his secretary’s transcription machine tape.

Those Watergate voice recordings seem a bit old-fashioned today, in this era of word processing and electronic mail. While Oliver North and his secretary were busily feeding documents into their shredder, they apparently forget all about their IBM office automation system, which yielded electronic data that helped pinpoint what really happened.

Though it may aid in getting to the bottom of the Iran-contra mess, the availability of electronically stored data from a computer system raises many troublesome issues. Some of these involve legalities, others have to do with unresolved questions about records management and “ownership” of data.

On the legal front, it seems clear that justice could be obstructed by purging word processing files just as easily as by physically destroying evidence, though the courts have been struggling for years with the question of “admissibility” of computer media that lacks hard-copy equivalents.

Criminal proceedings aside, it is not clear whether informal staff documents stored in an executive branch word processor should be subject to congressional or other outside scrutiny.

Under the doctrine of “executive privilege” it has been pretty well accepted that staff papers and other planning memoranda underlying executive branch policy development need not be disclosed. To hold otherwise would inhibit the give and take needed to resolve conflicting viewpoints in arriving at official government policy. Civil servants and political appointees alike would be inhibited from documenting their views and recommendations if they knew such documents might be obtained by outside proponents of differing political positions. In this respect, it is reasonable to argue that informal electronic documentation, like written notes and memoranda, need not be made publicly available.

Privacy advocates are wont to assert that the contents of one’s office desk should be considered “personal” in the same sense that office telephone conversations must not be tapped. Presumably, this rule of thumb also applies to diskettes produced on one’s desktop PC or to electronic messages even when the latter are stored in a central switching computer. But to my knowledge,

there has never been a case of a law enforcement agency seeking a court order to tap an electronic mail system in the interests of a criminal investigation.

The point to keep in mind is that while there is some analogy between traditional hard-copy documentation and that stored in electronic systems, the analogy is not perfect and many fuzzy areas remain.

Records management specialists have been diligent in establishing “records retention schedules’ for various classes of documents, with the objective of preserving those of most lasting value for the longest period of time. But there is as yet no comparable retention schedule for diskettes, tapes, hard disks, ROMs and the other forms of electronic storage media that are proliferating at a rate faster than that of the Asian cockroach.

Archivists and historians worry that the records of government decision-making in the electronic age simply won’t be available to future generations, now that people have taken to keyboarding rather than writing things down.

If there is a silver lining to a Watergate or an Irangate, it may lie in focusing attention on how the government maintains its records. And maybe it will stimulate those engaged in the oft-trumpeted practice of “information resources management” to pay more attention to paperless “documents.”



Source Citation   (MLA 7th Edition)

Head, Robert V. “New scandal renews old record-keeping issues.” Government Computer News 27 Mar. 1987: 27.

Thoughts On Computer Software

There are several schools of thought when it comes to computer software. Some people seem to think that it’s OK to just leave their computer to run. That it’s OK to just leave it and it won’t ever get any better. Well, I have to say that after running a few programs that can help you to clean out your PC, there is some hope. If your computer is running slow, then I highly recommend that you look into getting a software tool that will help you to clean out your PC, get rid of extra files, and defrag the hard disk. But that’s not all. You’ll also find that you want to update your drivers. Drivers are just small software programs that enable Windows to operate your hardware devices and communicate with them. That means your printer, camera, audio card, the list goes on. I suggest that you look into getting a good software program to help you out with this.

There are thankfully several websites that can help you to quickly and easily determine which software programs are the best for this. I suggest that you check out this website and see for yourself. There are so many different software programs that it can be difficult to determine which is the best for your needs. However if you look at a website like this you’ll have a much easier time determining which software is the best.

We have had good luck with programs like Driver Detective and PC Health Advisor. But your mileage may vary. I suggest to most people to look into getting a program that suits whatever needs they have.

New Thoughts On Same Sex Marriage

In the ongoing debate over same sex marriage (which Quakers approve), it is interesting to look back at how the Christian thought as a whole is evolving on the issue.

The release this fall of a draft statement on human sexuality by a task force of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) resulted in several days of distorted news reporting. Media coverage focused on the statement’s suggestion that the ELCA affirm lifelong, committed, faithful, same-sex relationships. And it typically reported only half of a statement about masturbation, omitting the cautionary phrase “unless it becomes compulsive or hinders development of life-fulfilling relationships.”

But the news media missed the real news: that in 1993 a mainline Protestant denomination was:

* releasing a sex statement that used the word sin freely to talk about that which the statement’s authors saw falling short of God’s ideal for his human creatures: adultery, for example, and promiscuity, pornography, sexual abuse, and prostitution;

* basing a sex statement largely on Scripture and theology, rather than social science and pop philosophy;

* thinking about sex as much in terms of its relationship to the community as to the individual, and as much in terms of right and wrong as in terms of compassion and caring.

The ELCA task force even called on unmarried couples to abstain from sex and not to live together until they could tie the knot. We commend the task force for not concocting some abstract principle such as “justice-love,” as a commission of the Presbyterian Church (USA) did several years ago, overhauling Christian sexual ethics. The Lutherans listened instead to Scripture and theology.

Gospel myopia

When the ELCA task force listened to Scripture and theology, however, it listened in a very Lutheran way. Every theological tradition has its strength; and every strength can also be a weakness.

Lutherans traditionally read Scripture Christologically and evangelically; that is, they emphasize whatever is of Christ and of the good news of God’s grace. We find strength in that approach. In the context of Lutheran theology, it is hard to miss the gospel and difficult to become distracted from the one big message of Scripture by its other messages.

That strength, however, can make it more difficult to find the truth embedded in Scripture’s account of bow God ordered creation and made his covenant with Israel. (This is the kind of truth that Calvinists and Catholic natural-law theologians naturally emphasize.) Thus, Old Testament prohibitions against homosexuality do not automatically carry as large a weight for the Lutheran task force, and whatever smacks of law is suspect. In this statement, even the normative creation order of one man–one woman–one flesh–one lifetime seems to be relativized by Jesus’ pattern of welcoming sinners.

At one point, the task force says that ethical standards ought to be dispensed with when they seem to inhibit the spread of the gospel. Surely, the statement here confuses ethics with mores.

The Lutheran perspective need not lead in this direction. In its statement on marriage, the task force notes: “Jesus placed the faithful, mutually loving permanent |one flesh’ union of male and female at the core of the church’s teaching regarding marriage.” They could have carried over Jesus’ explicit affirmation of the two-sex nature of creation to their section on homosexuality. But in that section, the seamless robe of biblical ethics is ripped, and the task force stitches in a vague patch of “neighbor love” to guide us. They call for faithfulness, mutuality, and permanence in same-sex relationships, but they fail to see the implicit critique of any attempt to construct a pattern for same-sex marriages in Jesus’ words that “he who made them from the beginning made them male and female.”

Lutheran Christians will be discussing this statement over the coming months. Their feedback is due to the task force by June 30, 1994; after that, another draft will be prepared, to be voted on in August 1995. The ELCA has, for the most part, built a good foundation. May they have the wisdom to apply the whole counsel of God to the church’s understanding of sexuality.

The ELCA approves of same sex marriage.  The LCMS is still waffling on the issue.  Quakers can still be divisive.  But we believe the momentum is pushing towards approval of same sex marriage in the way that the issue of slavery and racial discrimination was slow to come around.