White House e-mail slips past scan

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

said.

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