Be Careful! Your E-Mail Past May Catch Up With You - InformationWeek
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4/26/2005
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John Dickinson
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Be Careful! Your E-Mail Past May Catch Up With You

The Internet Era has, in just a few short years, seen e-mail go from a newly-minted, often-talked-about-in-excitedly-hushed-tones, messaging technology to the most pedestrian sort of communications systems, more mundane than even the lowly wired telephone on your desk. But as we all know, mundane doesn't mean unimportant, and it's become something of a scourge among the ill-behaved and the criminally minded folks who have used it from time to time to express ill will, outrage, or just plain crim

The Internet Era has, in just a few short years, seen e-mail go from a newly-minted, often-talked-about-in-excitedly-hushed-tones, messaging technology to the most pedestrian sort of communications systems, more mundane than even the lowly wired telephone on your desk. But as we all know, mundane doesn't mean unimportant, and it's become something of a scourge among the ill-behaved and the criminally minded folks who have used it from time to time to express ill will, outrage, or just plain criminal thoughts.

The latest in this long line of folks hounded by their own e-mail messages is John Bolton. Whether you think he should be this country's UN ambassador or not, there is no question that the latest round of evidence regarding his behavior towards subordinates who do not agree with his policy positions comes from e-mail threads that were disclosed last week. In them, he apparently berates and derides employees in an effort to get their intelligence findings to line up with his policy ideas, and the messages serve to document allegations that were made earlier about the man's aberrant and often outrageous behavior.

There is nothing new on the technology front here. After all, judicial cases dating back to the mid-1980's have included e-mail evidence, and you can bet that the upcoming Enron trials will include evidence that will require terabytes worth of messages to be presented to the trial judge and jury, to the appeals court, to the circuit court, and wherever else those cases wind up.

The odd thing about the Bolton e-mail messages is that there is really no evidence of illegal behavior in them, only a bunch of yelling about things. I guess that just reinforces what I said last week, when I wrote that you should never insert emotions into e-mail messages because they are sure to be misunderstood or their intent inflated. Surely, as this case proves, their desired goal was not only not achieved, it may have been reversed.

John Dickinson is editor of Messaging Pipeline..

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