Sunday, June 05, 2005

This Needs to Stop

The ACLU's practice of shredding certain documents has been reported on before, but apparently it is still going on. It needs to stop.

Janet Linde, who oversaw the A.C.L.U.'s archives for over a decade until she resigned last month, raised concerns in e-mail messages and memorandums for over two years that officials' use of shredders in their offices made a mockery of the organization's policy to supervise document destruction and created potential legal risks.

"It has been shown in many legal cases over the years, including the Enron case, that if a company has an established and documented shredding program they will not be liable if documents at issue in a lawsuit are found to have been destroyed," Ms. Linde wrote in a 2003 memo. "If, however, the means for unauthorized shredding is present in the office we cannot say that we have made a good faith effort to monitor and document our records disposal process."

Ms. Linde said she was disturbed that her correspondence had become public and declined to comment further. A spokeswoman for the organization, Emily Whitfield, declined to answer specific questions but made the following statement: "The A.C.L.U.'s records management policies have always been of the highest standards in keeping with, if not more stringent than, those of other nonprofits."

Janet Linde is absolutely correct. And Emily Whitfield's statement is just a lame excuse. I don't find it acceptable when wrongdoing is justified or trivialized by saying, "Everyone else does the same thing and we are better about not doing it than anyone else." I don't accept that line of reasoning when the Bush administration uses it, or when neocon bloggers use it; and I don't accept it when the ACLU uses it.

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