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88 GB of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s E-Mails at Center of Security Camera Scandal

Security company that was awarded the contract paid for the Mayor’s vacations. Ooops! where did those Emails go?

The Background
New Orleans just can not get a break, and its Mayor, Ray Nagin, sometimes seems to be the City’s own worst enemy. In what was supposed to be an effort to help control New Orleans’ serious crime problem, the city installed over 200 security cameras. But in Big Easy style, the deal quickly became less about the safety of citizens and more about corruption. According to many reports, the cameras don’t work….and crime is still out of control. To add insult to injury, Federal Investigators have now discovered that the security contractor that was awarded the business is a good buddy and neighbor of the city’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

The Allegations
In what appears to be yet another case of boondoggle politics, the Feds have also learned that the security contractor paid for vacations for the CTO and the Mayor on more than one occasion. Sometime after that, the contractor was awarded the financially lucrative contract for the installation of the City’s camera system. One would think that some New Orleans voters hope the Mayor’s free vacations were just as dysfunctional as the reportedly faulty camera system. Now the Feds have issued subpoenas for 88 GB of the Mayor’s emails for the time period in question. Seems the Emails have mysteriously disappeared. What a surprise!

The Result
Nagin will be pulled into court anyway and he’ll have some explaining to do about the emails. I’m sure his CTO has a good explanation.

The Take-Aways

  1. Emails have babies. Remember that one email sent from one individual will reproduce and its off-spring can often be found in multiple locations. In this case, for example, just because the mayor’s work email server has experienced an, er., “malfunction”, investigators can still go after the Mayor’s work computer, home computer, BlackBerry, Internet Service Provider (ISP) email accounts, the computers used by the security contractor, etc. Don’t be discouraged if your defendant’s emails have evaporated…..just cast your net a little wider and go after other targets.
  2. Dead Emails speak from the grave. Even when Emails and other Electronically Stored Information (ESI) “disappear” one can usually find remnants or computer system event logs that will incriminate the defendant and tell the real story. In this case, investigators should examine email server logs to see if someone “jazzed” with the City’s email servers a few days after the Gumbo hit the fan. They might just see a log-in record indicating how the data went missing and who was pressing the computer keys when it happened. Forensics can re-create this system user activity….and it can be used to demonstrate spoliation activities and destruction intent.
  3. Policies = data redundancy. All organizations should have email retention policies and data back-up policies and practices to minimize these types of events. Any Chief Technology Officer worth his weight in “Po Boy” sandwiches will have good policies in place. Make sure your clients do too.
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About Jeff Hartman

Jeff is a 30 year veteran of the corporate security, computer forensics, and eDiscovery community and a co-founder and partner at 4Discovery. 4Discovery is a leading provider of computer incident response and computer forensics services to attorneys, corporate security executives, and the information protection community.