White House e-mail slips past scan
- By Dan Caterinicchia, Dan Caterinicchia
- Mar 26, 2000
A case-sensitive glitch allowed hundreds of thousands of incoming White
House e-mail messages to slip through undetected, leaving Congress and the
Justice Department without e-mail evidence in matters related to campaign
finance, "Filegate" and the Monica Lewinsky sex-and-perjury scandal.
Employees from Northrop Grumman Corp., the main computer contractor
at the Executive Office of the President (EOP), explained the problem in
testimony last week before the House Government Reform Committee.
Because of a glitch in an EOP server, incoming e-mail messages from
the Internet went undetected by the Automated Records Management System
(ARMS), which searches text in response to subpoenas and other inquiries.
Internal messages were not affected.
In June 1998, Yiman Salim and Robert Haas, members of Northrop's Lotus
Development Corp. Notes group, found the glitch in the Mail2 server. The
server is used by 500 people, most of whom work for the White House.
Two years earlier, the contractor before Northrop built the server
with the name Mail2, but accounts were assigned the name MAIL2. The case-sensitive
ARMS left those accounts unscanned, Salim said.
Congress eventually subpoenaed the unscanned records. But John Spriggs,
Northrop's senior engineer for electronic mail, said the e-mail messages
in question still have not been recovered.
Salim and Spriggs corrected Mail2's case-sensitive problem in November
1998, but Salim discovered another glitch in April 1999: ARMS was not properly
scanning e-mails to people whose first name began with "D." That problem,
corrected June 1, 1999, affected all the Lotus Notes mail servers, Salim