e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


texts, lies, and videotape

So, yet another scandal for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. He has survived allegations of wild parties at the mayoral mansion, keeping an expensive entourage, killing strippers, taking spa trips with cronies on the city's dime, on and on.

Now, the biggie. Local press obtained 14,000 text messages that allegedly prove Kilpatrick and his chief of staff purjured themselves. Two cops had sued the city, claiming they were dismissed for threatening to whistle-blow in an investigation of Kilpatrick's security detail--an investigation that would have exposed an affair between Kilpatrick and his chief.

Under oath, Kilpatrick swore unequivocally that he never had an affair with the chief and that he did not fire the cops. The 14,000 text messages include some pretty clear indications of an affair ("I want another night...at the Residence Inn! You made me feel so good that night") and that Mayor and chief made the decision to fire the cops.

Naturally, the press goes wild. The whole city drips with the gory details. Obviously, the sex sells, and this story--which is about consensual but adulterous workplace sex and the lies under oath that followed--breaks a decade, almost to the day, of the publication of the first Monica Lewinksy stories.

But the technology angle is as flashy as the sex. There's a record, somewhere, of every key stroke we make. News reports review the ins and outs of the Freedom of Information Act provisions that gave the press access to these text messages (made from a city-owned device). One of the investigative reporters highlights the sidebar pieces the paper's "tech guy" will surely do during the scandal's fallout. A caller to talk radio this morning says he works for a major cell phone provider and that homeland security mandates they back-up their customers' every text message, every call, every photograph, every voicemail and maintain tapes for the feds to access on demand.

Remarkably, on the same day Detroiters learn of a story about thousands and thousands of six-year-old text messages resurfacing in their entirety, the White House reports that its tech people have not been able to access archives of White House emails from December 03 and January 04, the period when weapons inspectors concluded the absence of WMDs in Iraq. Go figure. Oh, and preservation of west wing emails is required under the Presidential Records Act. Alas, no sex in that particular scandal, so the story will probably receive little attention before disappearing like those emails.

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