Monday, June 06, 2005

Let's Talk "Shreddergate"

This strikes me as a total witchhunt--You can all come back later and tell me what a dunce I am if I'm wrong, but I don't see why everybody's in hysteria over the New York Times story about shredding at the ACLU. I don't know if anybody calls it "Shreddergate" yet, but no doubt by the time I finish this post, somebody will have...I'm asking myself, what's really going on at the ACLU with regard to its shredders, and even as I do so I feel a little silly, because I think that, for the most part, if you want to shred documents that you generated or collected, that ought to be up to you. Within the boundaries of document retention required by law, if you want to shred, shred, if you want to save, save...and sometimes you may have a difference of opinion about what to save or what to shred--you need to sort that out internally, it's none of my business.

And so far, all I can see in this little soap opera is that's what's going on at the ACLU...let's just look at the facts for a second...Until last month, Janet Linde was the "records manager" at the ACLU...basically, Ms. Linde is an's was her job to see papers chronicling the work of the ACLU are preserved. To that end, the ACLU has, historically, had strict document retention policies. Anything being destroyed was to be put in a locked bin to be approved for destruction before it was actually destroyed. Point 1: It's not as though documents weren't already being shredded, the only potential issue is whether an office policy was violated.

2001: Enter Anthony Romero, executive director...Director Romero brings his shredder with him, and mentions the fact to some employees in 2002...the employees are dutifully shocked, but no action is taken, other than that Mr. Romero was reminded of the policy. Point 2: Sombody's in violation of the policy...nothing illegal so far, but Ms. Linde's toes are feeling tramped on.

So where are we? So far I see an archivist, whose entire job and function and importance in an organization revolves around having control over documents (read, "she might be a tad obsessive") versus "the Boss" who isn't so concerned with the details. So what happens next?

In 2003, the ACLU hires Richard Smith, an expert in computer security, to offer suggestions regarding protection of info on the computers. Mr Smith recommends more shredding of documents and that document disposal be more convenient. In 2003, shredders were place in more convenient areas adjacent to copiers. Gee, do you thnk Ms. Linde was pleased? No...Ms Linde started complaining, stating in one memo that, "if...the means for unauthorized shredding is present in the office we cannot say that we have made a good faith effort to monitor and document our records disposal process."

Point 3: There's a difference of opinion as to what the policy ought to be...apparently somebody above Ms. Linde decides computer security trumps document retention."

The bottom line is, the Director kept his shredder, and the Director of Administration and Finance, Alma Montclair, and her associate, David Baird kept theirs as well. Ms. Linde continued to complain, especially when some bags of shredded documents from Administration and Finance showed up near a freight elevator, and I think the atmosphere in the office can be summed up in this tidbit from Mr. Baird to Ms. Linde--"It is not clear to either Alma or I the specific reasons why shredding these clearly confidential documents needs to be reported to you." In other words, Ms. Linde is pretty much just being a pain about this, and why doesn't she find something else to do. So now she has quit her job and suddenly, an "unknown person" leaks Ms. Linde's gripes to the NYT and she is dutifully "disturbed" about it...hmm

Point 4: Ms. Linde has lost the battle, and wants to leave the ACLU with a little something to remember her by.

That's it? For this we should sign petitions, call out the Marines, the Special Prosecutor, the CIA, and the Man From U.N.C.L.E.? I'll get upset when there's actually a fact, ANY fact, that indicates there's something nefarious going on here...I still don't see anythig more than a little potential embarrassment and bad pub for the ACLU over violating their own policies while whining about "big business" and government doing excessive shredding.

For a totally different view of this issue, you can check out Stop the ACLU and most of the members of the Stop the ACLU Blogburst (just not me)...

"Stop The ACLU" Blogbursters

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