So far, what we know is disturbing: “A series of hard drive failures” has corrupted an enormous amount of Cayman Islands police data — 1.2 terabytes worth, roughly equivalent to 80 million copies of the editorial you’re reading.
The government’s computer services personnel have been unable to restore and retrieve all of those records, and recommend sending the spoiled equipment overseas for outside expert assistance. The records involved relate to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Joint Intelligence Unit, Marine Unit and the office of Police Commissioner David Baines. Backup drives, apparently, were also corrupted during the crash.
Even more disturbing is what we don’t know: What records, exactly, are missing? Precisely how, why and when did the “hard drive crash” occur? Who is responsible for the loss? Who, if anyone, can fix it? How much is this going to cost?
The most disturbing thing of all, perhaps, is that no one — in the police, ministry or civil service — seems to know anything at all, either. Or if they do know, they aren’t talking.
Certainly, nobody volunteered to disclose to the public the records loss when it happened, “apparently sometime in May,” according to Wednesday’s story in the Compass, which only learned about the situation via a Freedom of Information Law request for Marine Unit records that just happened to be among the corrupted files. Did the government only learn about the missing records at that time as well?
For many reasons, it behooves the government and police to be as honest, open and transparent about the corrupted files and missing records as possible.
English scientist Charles Babbage, often called the “father of computing,” wrote in 1832, “The errors which arise from the absence of facts are far more numerous and more durable than those which result from unsound reasoning respecting true data.”
While Mr. Babbage was specifically arguing for the importance of providing political economists with hard business statistics, his remark touches upon a fundamental facet of human behavior.
When the public isn’t being provided with facts, people begin to create their own. Imagination and speculation pose a far greater danger to collective society than would any responses to the truth. Fairly soon, talk of corrupted files may give way to talk of corruption and deliberations over deliberateness.
How can officials know so little about the missing records, or, alternatively, if they do know something, how can they justify not coming forward — or at least provide reasons why they can’t.
After all, depending on the specific files, the police records could very well contain information whose disclosure or loss (or even disclosure of loss) could jeopardize domestic, regional or international security.
Those officials who know, or should know, need to share answers with the people or publicly demand answers from others.
Right now, we don’t have many answers, but we have many questions:
- When did the records go missing, when was the problem discovered, and why was there no announcement?
- How did the backup drives also become corrupted? What was the retention policy for the records?
- Do any of the missing records concern current or future prosecutions, or contain sensitive information from intelligence-gathering operations?
- Can it be declared, with certainty, that none of the missing records relate to Operation Tempura and the continuing fallout from that ill-fated police probe orchestrated and executed by the U.K.?