National Security Archive announces Rosemary Award

Rose Mary Woods demonstrates the backward-leaning stretch with which she erased 181/2 minutes of a key Watergate conversation.
Rose Mary Woods demonstrates the backward-leaning stretch with which she erased 181/2 minutes of a key Watergate conversation. (Courtesy Of The National Security Archive)
By Al Kamen
Friday, March 12, 2010

And now, the winner of the National Security Archive's Sixth Annual Rosemary Award, named for President Richard M. Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, whose unlikely stretch allegedly erased 18 1/2 minutes of a Watergate tape.

The award this year goes to the Federal Chief Information Officers Council, the top officials in charge of $71 billion in IT purchases, who have "never addressed the failure of the government to save its e-mail electronically," the archives said in announcing the winner.

The council was set up in 1996, so this is really a lifetime achievement -- or lack thereof -- award. The nonprofit archive noted that a 2008 survey by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and found that no federal agency required an electronic record-keeping system. Thus an investigation of former Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee over the "torture memos" found that most of Yoo's had been deleted and couldn't be recovered.

There's no good news on this front, the archive concluded, save maybe at the White House, where a system has been installed that preserves "even the president's own BlackBerry messages."

Better watch yourself when you write to him.

Pieces of the prize

Five months after getting word he won the $1.4 million Nobel Prize, President Obama announced Thursday he will dole out the cash to 10 charities. The largest recipient ($250,000) is Fisher House, one of the charities we selected three months ago as a winner in the Loop Nobel Charities Contest. Fisher House, which serves families of wounded soldiers being treated at major military and Veterans Administration facilities, was suggested by Brian Scott of Colorado Springs.

Proof is in the doughnuts

Attention, Supreme Court clerk hopefuls. If Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. offers you a doughnut, take it, our colleague Bob Barnes suggests.

In that recent chat with University of Alabama law students that has caused such a dust-up, Roberts was also asked what he looks for in clerks.

"I like people with a fair amount of self-confidence, who are going to be comfortable with expressing their views and defending those views without, you know, wilting," he said.

He developed a little self-confidence experiment once, he said, apparently when he was still an appellate judge. All the interviews were on one day, so he brought in a dozen powdered-sugar and glazed Krispy Kremes, and instructed his secretary to tell the applicants to help themselves.

"I figured anybody who had enough self-confidence to pick up a doughnut that's glazed or with powdered sugar would be the sort of person I was interested in," Roberts said. "I even remember saying, 'Anybody who has a doughnut, I'll hire.' "

Alas, at the end of the day, the doughnuts were untouched. "So I had to go back and look at their résumés," he said.

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