Monday, November 22, 2004

 

Post Ashcroft Stress Syndrome

You see what happens when you have a paranoid Attorney General?

I recently sent an email to the faculty list serve to join a heated, ongoing debate among our faculty on a weighty issue. Should we continue to provide lunch to attendees at lunch-time lecture-presentations by job candidates for faculty positions? My position: yes!

Disconcertingly, I received an “autoreply” from a name I didn’t recognize – let’s call him “John Smith” to protect his identity.
From: John.Smith@USDOJ.gov

I will be out of the office from 11/8/04 until 11/22/04 and will not be able to check my email. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Jane Doe. Thank you.
No, Mr. Smith, or Agent Smith, or Assistant U.S. Attorney Smith did not actually refer me to Jane Doe – that too is a pseudonym.

Maybe I was in the office too late on a Friday evening. Why did my email to the faculty go over to John Ashcroft’s erstwhile minions at the U.S. Department of Justice? Naturally, I had immediate visions of the USAPATRIOT Act, of pen registers and trap/traces, of electronic surveillance based on secret warrants obtained from secret courts. I hit the panic button, with this email to the faculty list serve:
Subject: Is the Faculty List Serve Under Surveillance by the Justice Department?

My recent message to the faculty list serve on the subject of free lunches at candidate presentations received this "autoreply" from someone at USDOJ (see below) Why would my email to faculty list serve, sent from my office computer, have been received by John Smith at the U.S. Justice Department?

Although I'm kidding about surveillance, I'm seriously interested in hearing from our IT people why this might have happened.
Over the weekend weekend, I was bombarded with messages from colleagues helpfully explaining that John Smith was one of the adjunct legal writing instructors, who helps our students when he’s not at his day job in the regional DOJ office. Mr. Smith was not even in Washington!

I blame John Ashcroft, of course. The worst attorney general in living memory has left an indelible imprint on my psyche. I’m now jumpy about surveillance! Are you happy John? Is this the America you wanted, a place where well meaning people will hurt the feelings of co-workers they should have, but have not yet met?

Epilogue: The IT people responded to my worries about the possibility of security breaches to our faculty list serve with this reassuring response:
From: IT HelpDesk
Subject: Is the Faculty List Serve Under Surveillance by the Justice Department?

According to our records, your request has been resolved. If you have any
further questions or concerns, please respond to this message.

Please check the subject line to see which email this is in reference to.

Case closed.


Comments:
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