State Department E-mail Server Crash Illustrates Bigger-Picture Diplomatic Problems

The State Department can't reply to everyone at once . . . at least not through its E-mail server.

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By Sam Dealey, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

It's a general principle among diplomats that talking can solve every problem. And, by extension, the more that people communicate, the better a situation can be. If the United Nations wasn't disproof enough of that notion, consider the recent crash of the State Department's E-mail system when a stray message was sent to thousands of employees.

Officials said the storm started when some diplomats used the "reply all" function to respond to a blank email sent recently to many people on the department's global address list.

Most demanded to be removed from the list while others used "reply all" to tell their co-workers, in often less than diplomatic language, to stop sending to the entire group, the officials said.

Some then compounded the problem by trying to recall their initial replies, which generated another round of messages to the group. 

Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy was particularly annoyed. As the AP reports: "Anyone who disregards these instructions will be subject to disciplinary actions," Kennedy wrote in the cable, which begins: "Please ensure widest distribution of this message."

Couldn't he have just replied to all?