What was Mitt Romney trying to hide by destroying hard drives?

Summary:Although it's up to substantial debate whether or not Mitt Romney is the most qualified to be our next president, one thing is sure: he's certainly acting like most other presidents in his desire to hide or destroy email records.

It sounds like something out of my White House email reports. A politician, leaving office, has ordered email messages destroyed and hard drives wiped.

This is issue was brought to my attention a few days ago by a reader, but the Thanksgiving holiday kind of distracted me from the attention it was due. But yesterday, fellow Internet Press Guild member Sharon Fisher wrote an article describing how Mitt Romney had destroyed computer data when he left the Governor's office in Massachusetts.

Why would Romney, a leading GOP presidential candidate, go out of his way to destroy information after leaving office? What is he trying to hide?

This, sadly, is not as exciting a story as it might be, because while Romney clearly wanted to keep some information confidential, he's far from the first politician to unapologetically try to destroy information from his administration.

In fact, when I wrote Where Have All The Emails Gone? (free download) about the Bush Administration's 5 million missing email messages, one of the most disturbing facts I discovered was that all presidents have tried to hide or destroy their messages.

Ever since there was White House email, presidents have been particularly unhappy about the preservation of email traffic. This goes all the way back to President Reagan, and if you think this is unique to the Republicans, think again. When Bill Clinton left office, then Senior Advisor on Policy and Strategy George Stephanopolous was quoted in the May 18, 1993 issue of The Washington Post as saying, "Like Bush's White House, the Clinton White House does not want a succeeding, potentially unfriendly administration pawing through its computer memos."

George was, of course, talking about the original Bush Administration, but the phrase "pawing through its computer memos" is the most instructive. This is how most administrations, whether federal or state, feel about computer records and email messages. They think first of their own legacies and about political positioning, rather than about America's right to transparency and historical record.

Although it's up to substantial debate whether or not Mitt Romney is the most qualified to be our next president, one thing is sure: he's certainly acting like most other presidents in his desire to hide or destroy email records.

And you wonder why I have so little regard for politicians. All politicians.

Topics: Hardware, Collaboration, CXO

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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