From Precise Technology to the Legal Black Hole: How a Good Guy May Have Been Violated
Those things that control our lives, no, not government bureaucrats but computers, know only the language of ones and zeros.
This binary code is what computers record on disks when they store things. When we save pictures or documents or music or even have email in our “In Box”, the computer magnetically records millions of these zeros and ones (or Bits) on the disk.
On the surface of most modern disks there is a microscopic layer of metal fibers – kind of like tiny hairs. These metal hairs become magnetized to represent the “ones” and become demagnetized to represent the “zeros”. The fibers are read and the ones and zeros are sent to the appropriate programs for interpretation.
Now, this is the part that is essential to understand if we are to take a rational position on what just happened to the good Councilor.
Two things occur nearly simultaneously when things are recorded onto the disk: the series of bits are magnetically recorded on the disk as noted above and the operating system makes an entry about the thing we just saved in a directory of sorts with a lot of important information. The file name, where on the physically on the disk it is recorded and where you THINK the thing is recorded are some of the information the computer saves in this directory. (Note: there is much more information being placed in this directory of sort – but these are the salient ones for the purpose of this article).
Here’s the Inside Scoop
In a Windows operating system, when we “delete” a thing from disk, the operating system is really not deleting it – it is merely changing the entry in the directory. What it does in part is to change where you THINK the thing is recorded. The computer does NOT physically move the thing nor does it touch in any way the bits that make up the thing.
Again, a “delete” in Windows will change where you think the thing was (like “My Documents”) to a “new” place – called “Recycled Bin”.
So you see, by simply deleting the thing, it is not being removed from the disk!
But it Gets Better
When you “Empty the Recycle Bin” … guess what? Windows still does NOT delete the thing! What it does now (in simplistic terms) is to go back to that directory of sorts and remove the entry to that thing from the directory. So search as you will for that thing, the directory has no mention of it anywhere so it reports back that the thing does not exist. (It’s kind of like having a book in a giant library but the index card is missing). Hence, even after emptying the Recycle Bin, the thing is still on the disk! But …
Remember the tiny little fibers? Well, they are still magnetized or not magnetized in the exact same way when the thing was placed on the computer! And as you would have it, there are programs that can scan the disk and look for these areas that have no entry in the directory and covert the bits that are there to something we can understand . Then, viola! … the thing can be determined – the thing is back!
This process does not always work. If Windows needs to write something new, it looks in the directory to determine where there are free areas. Since the directory does not have an entry for those items that were in the Recycle Bin, it can write something new in all or part of that area making the full recovery of the previous occupier of that space impossible.
An Aside …
Say you are being hunted by the CIA or Interpol because you are a really, really, really bad person (you belong to al qaeda or Hamas or FARC or ETA or MS-13 or Hezbollah or you are not liked by the syndicate that runs Marco Island) and hence want to forever and assuredly delete something from your hard drive, use a “Wipe” program. These programs will not only update the directory but go to the physical space on the disk and physically change the little hairs to be all demagnetized – meaning all zeros – hence making simple recovery practically impossible. But … there is always a “but” … the FBI has systems that can actually determine how those little disk hairs WERE before they all were set to zeros. Therefore they can determine what was there before whatever is there now (even just zeros) got there. But … there are advanced Wipe programs that will change those hairs to random patterns trillions of times over thereby ascertaining what was there a trillion changes ago somewhat problematic (if not impossible). But then there are these Chinese scientists that … it just gets better and better but this is too far a field.
This author’s experience is that users routinely “delete” files knowing that the files wind up in the “Recycle Bin” from which they can be recovered. This practice in essence makes the “Recycle Bin” a storage bin of sorts. Analogously, users of on-line email delete emails knowing that the emails wind up in the “Trash Bin” – from which the emails can be recovered.
This custom is shunned by experts but they accept the practice as a way common users go about using the computer. The original intent of the “Recycle Bin” was to prevent the unintentional permanent removal of files, but over the years its use is one of “out of sight, out of mind, and a place to look in case I need it” – like most garages in today’s homes.
Once a computer user opts to “Empty the Recycle Bin”, then they are in essence really deleting those files – irrespective of the above noted recovery methods.
Back to the Good Councilor
Without knowing the specifics of the technical issues of the case no analysis will be afforded on this regard. However, an offer is made for a gratis professional and technical analysis if such is desired in the event that an appeal is forthcoming.
So here are some things to consider:
- If the claim by the policia is that the emails were deleted because the “delete” was used – but the emails wound up in a recycle/trash bin – this argument is vacuous at best. Common practice is to “delete” things knowing that they can be recovered. If Microsoft could ever figure out how to appropriately name things, the delete function would long ago have been called “Ignore”.
- If a lay user has a spam program running on their computer, and that spam program determines that certain emails are spam and “deletes” them – irrespective of the mechanical implications of a “delete” as described above – is the user liable for how a spam program works?
- Or is the user supposed to read all email, determine what is spam and what isn’t? Since the entire legal system is corrupt beyond imagination – especially our local good ol’ boy network – unintended consequences open the door to more political retributions.
- If a councilor gets an email soliciting prostitution (invariably with the offer for Viagra from Canada) and determines it to be spam, but in fear of the Gestapo the councilor forwards it anyway to the city clerk, is the councilor guilty of promoting prostitution by forwarding the email to the city clerk? … a clerk that happens to be female and then can sue for sexual harassment under federal law, because after all that is how she and her lawyers are going to interpret the email, right?
- Here is a better one: same scenario but the councilor deletes the email (or the spam program deletes it automatically) and hence does not send it to the city clerk, then later finds out that it was a genuine offer for sex from a constituent – is this councilor now criminally liable?
- Or is the user supposed to merely forward all emails to the governmental body in charge of keeping all of those communications? If so, aren’t the pseudo intellectuals that run what used to be our government (i.e., the lawyers) aware that knowingly forwarding spam or knowingly forwarding any email where there is a mention of a crime (solicitation, child pornography, etc..) is a violation of federal laws? Or is there an exception to these federal laws as related to Marco Island – or better – does the “Sunshine” Law and the Collier inficio infeci infectum jurisprudence once again trump federal statutes?
- And if the user does forward all those emails, what if there is illegal content in those emails – like child pornography – is the user then liable for promoting an illegal act?
In the world where high technology is not prostituted for political vendettas, these paradoxes, contradictions, infinite circuitous inductive reasoning exercises, and deductive dead ends don’t exist.
By the way, did the city have documented procedures in place on how to address these (and many more) questions before the incident? Any well managed organization established anytime in the last 20 years has specific well documented policies and procedures regarding email – did those exist before the alleged crime was committed?
If the PUBLIC justification for the verdict was that the councilor deleted the emails and then emptied the recycle bin of emails THAT HAD BEEN PERSONALLY READ by the councilor and that the emails contained content which was clearly meant for city business, then this author would need compelling information to find fault with the PUBLIC justification for the verdict.
Any other justification for the verdict, inclusive of all PRIVATE validations (a la the wink and nods from certain those in the gallery), is indicative of a gross injustice.
Hopefully this information is helpful for those remaining that are wrestling with yet another insult.