The Circuit

A Spy Among Us

While the Justice Department presses Microsoft Corp. on antitrust charges here at home, the German government is hitting the software giant for being a "back door" to National Security Agency snoops wanting to read German secrets.

The German government has announced it will no longer use Microsoft software in computers storing or handling sensitive government and military documents, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel. The German government reportedly suspects that NSA has access to Microsoft source codes, enabling its agents to hack German computer systems.

"It's our stance that it's inappropriate for us to comment on this," an NSA spokeswoman said. Shucks — but we're not at all surprised.

W Signs Off

President Bush sent his last e-mail last week, telling 42 "dear friends" and relatives that he had to sign off. "My lawyers tell me all correspondence by e-mail is subject to open record requests. Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace. This saddens me."

Somebody should tell the president's lawyers that although criminal or congressional investigators can subpoena any document, including e-mail messages or notes of a meeting, no one can go on a fishing expedition seeking everything. As to whether e-mails will be included in his presidential papers, that's entirely his choice.

We guess the whole world is gun-shy in the wake of Clinton-Lewinsky. Bill Clinton never sent e-mails during his presidency, but e-mails from Monica to him formed part of the evidence gathered by prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

Flyzik's Council Shift

Federal CIO Council member James Flyzik made it official March 21 at the FOSE trade show: He's stepping down as vice chairman of the council.

It may be a long goodbye. Flyzik, whose day job is CIO at the Treasury Department, promised to stay on as vice chairman until President Bush names a deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. The deputy director will become chairman of the council. So far Bush has offered no nominee, and according to senior federal officials, there isn't even a reliable short list of candidates. Once relieved of his vice chairman's mantle, Flyzik is expected to become one of three co-chairmen of the CIO Council's e-government committee.

Plain and simple

Seems like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is taking the former Clinton administration's plain-English mandate to heart. In its recent solicitation for PCs and laptops, USPTO laid out a list of definitions for terms used in the document. Among them: "DOA" — yes, dead on arrival — for products that don't work when received, and "lemon" for those items that don't work after several attempts to fix them. It doesn't get much clearer than that.


Meanwhile, Alan Kessler, chief operating officer of Palm Inc., is coining some new phrases for the next chapter in the IT revolution. There's "m-gov" for mobile government and "e-wallet" for using handheld devices instead of credit cards to pay your bills. Any others out there, folks?

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