I won't repeat it here, but this paragraph is interesting in light of the current controversy:
"Preliminary results of GAO's ongoing review of e-mail records management at four agencies show that not all are meeting the challenges posed by e-mail records. Although the four agencies' e-mail records management policies addressed, with a few exceptions, the regulatory requirements, these requirements were not always met for the senior officials whose e-mail practices were reviewed. Each of the four agencies generally followed a print and file process to preserve e-mail records in paper-based recordkeeping systems, but for about half of the senior officials, e-mail records were not being appropriately identified and preserved in such systems. Print and file makes no sense--electronic is cheaper [regular type is GAO, italic is my 2008 comment]Let me repeat words: "followed a print and file process..." In other words, the idea in these agencies, and I think generally throughout government, was:
- not all emails were official records worthy of retention, just as not all paper documents generated within an agency were official records worthy of retention.
- someone was supposed to winnow the wheat from the chaff, go through the email, select the ones which merited retention, print them out, and file them in the paper filing system which was governed by records retention schedules approved by NARA.
- the cost of retaining all electronic records was low, and becoming lower with every year Moore's law applied
- the cost of reviewing, printing, and filing email as prescribed by NARA was high
- the likelihood of a bureaucracy doing no. 2 in an effective way was very low, as borne out by GAO's report
- therefore, agencies should just keep all email in a searchable repository.
I'm also saying I was right in 2008--the simple effective rule is to retain all email records from email servers used for any government business, and let them be searchable.