Here’s one I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while. Marc Andreessen commented on some decisive action from the Governor of Minnesota following last week’s tragic bridge collapse:
New York Times home page: The governor of Minnesota and officials from several other states have ordered all bridges to be inspected…
Sadly, this is Standard Operating Procedure whenever there’s any sort of calamity on a scale that causes people not to be re-elected. Earlier this year, a whole lot of personal information suddenly went “missing” when a backup tape was stolen out of an intern’s car. Yes, you read that right — an agency of the Great State of Ohio was sending backup tapes home with an intern, and the intern parked his car somewhere with this tape in it, and the tape was stolen. Oops.
So, there’s a whole lot of blame to go around on this one, isn’t there?
There’s the intern, of course. Lots of people have been pretty hard on him, in part because he was actually named pretty early in the unfolding of this debacle. I believe he’s now been fired, in fact. Sure, he shouldn’t have left this tape in his car.
But seriously, who really expects an intern to be setting and executing policy decisions for identity protection for a state agency? Go read some Dilbert strips with Asok the Intern, and you’ll be in a better mindframe to appreciate how ridiculous this is. I’ve worked with interns before, and I never resorted to making them get me coffee or pick up my dry cleaning, but it wouldn’t have been a huge stretch. Interns do what you tell them to do. That’s what it means to be an intern.
Meanwhile, the Governor was springing into action, furiously covering his backside and simultaneously searching for someone to hang out to dry. Here’s a bit from a press release he tossed out a couple days after this story broke:
The governor has ordered the cessation of this data management practice, a review of the events that led to the data being compromised, and will take appropriate disciplinary action when the facts are known.
The governor has directed by executive order that state information technology managers immediately review, and if necessary change, the procedures for handling back up information to ensure that information is secure at all times.
Whew. That was close. Good thing the Governor stepped up to tell everyone to cease and desist the intern backup rotation. Eerily similar to the Minnesota Governor’s release, isn’t it?
So am I blaming the Governor for the data theft? No, not really. Ted Strickland just took office in January, and considering the real problems he’s got to deal with (like, get an economy), I really would have hoped that he could focus on the big stuff while someone whose business it was to manage data worried about whether backup tapes were sitting in the back seats of cars.
Sadly, the guys in the middle, one or more of whom really *are* responsible in this case, have remained largely anonymous. I’ve seen a couple articles where various middle administrators have shucked off blame and deflected responsibility, and this is where you find the heart of the problem: a successful career in government (no, not just politics) depends on one’s ability to avoid and/or deny any real responsibility for anything, while managing to be involved in everything.