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HLS: Serious or Not Serious XVI

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff no longer has a problem with spam. Not wanting to be deluged with lots of garbage, Chertoff no longer uses e-mail.

His conversion to Luddism started after Hurricane Katrina last year, when a deluge of overnight messages about levee breaches flooded his e-mail account, according to a report in U.S. News and World Report. “When people rely on e-mail chains, it can sometimes leave the decision maker unable to sort out good information from information that’s just plain wrong,” Chertoff says.

Plus, he says, “People sometimes will think you’ve gotten something that you actually haven’t gotten.”

Of course, Chertoff has something most of us don’t: aides who monitor and sift through e-mails. Says the Homeland Security czar: “I rely on people communicating with my staff.”

Was it Reno or Freeh that had the same problem? Is this a lawyer thing? Heaven forbid the MFIC doesn’t know what is going on. Why bother with near-real-time information when memos will do?

And that pesky read-receipt button is so hard to click, oh the pain. And is it that he has a staff and they still can’t get him just the emails he needs, or he has a staff that sorts through his email and prints out the ones he should see? I’ve seen this play out before: in a Dilbert strip.

If you can’t get your hands around what is arguably the most widely used (and easy to use) means of communication in the modern world today . . . I, I don’t know what to say to that that isn’t vulgar or personal (or both).

Look, there are only two kinds of people who send email to the top guy in any government agency: those who are supposed to interact with him, and the rare crazy who actually takes that open-door-policy cr@p seriously. He has how many deputies (plus one sub-MFIC on the ground during Katrina) and he can’t handle the deluge? It’s a hierarchy people; you write to the guy above you, he filters and writes to the gal above him, she filters and writes to the guy above her, she filters and it gets to ‘the man.’ It happens every hour of every day in every agency in the land.

Either things are in such disarray that the e-food chain has broken down he actually is suffering from email overload or he’s a neo-luddite. Either way we all need to worry.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.