I had a small cascade of reactions to this (via Eschaton).
First thought: It's disgusting that the White House is trying to relegate its statements about Iraq to the Memory Hole.
Second thought: It's great to live in a free country where this doesn't work.
Third thought: This demonstrates the same level of technical (in)competence we see in so many things this Administration does.
Fourth thought: Maybe it does work more often than not — many people have come to rely on Google. Efforts like this often won't get spotted most of the time.
Fifith set of thoughts: How do we prevent, or at least identify and publicize and warn about, this sort of activity in the future? Will this mean that commercial databases which keep pristine copies of things and promise not to santize still have a place? Can something like archive.org overcome this sort of attack on our online history? Is there anything Congress could or should do about this? (Needen't ask “would”—we know the answer to that.)
Update: Sixth thought: Well, they just made it much less accessible (although people who rely on google might get the idea the statements didn't exist), as far as we know they didn't actually delete them. It could be worse. But it's also more deniable.
Seventh thought: If I ran Google, would I now instruct my spiders to ignore the robots.txt file at whitehouse.gov?
The now-downed site is mirrored here: http://www.bway.net/~keith/whrobots
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From my experience at the EOP the sloppy execution of the deed is not a surprise. It certainly beggars belief that the robots.txt file got in that state by accident as the GOP is currently trying to claim, witness their attempt to get people to calm the waters on slashdot.
The way arround this is to mirror the site with a web crawler, making note of all changes to the site on a daily basis. The mirror site would then be crawled by google and all would be well. To go one stage further get everyone who lives in the blogsphere to link to it from their site to make sure it gets a good googlerank.
Various crypto hacks could be used to demonstrate accuracy, like using a notary protocol to create daily timestamps of the site.
Eight thought that is missed here is that coincidentally W himself gave an example of Whitehouse revisionism himself today when he claimed that the “Mission Acomplished” banner prominent in the now infamous Dukakis in tank, sorry Bush on Lincoln photo-op was the idea of the sailors… not the WH media team sent out to micromangage the affair to the extent of color cordinating the uniforms of the people standing on the flightdeck with the sign.
What in the world has happened to government officials.? Have they all lost their minds? Are they so busy collecting funny money they have to time to use their common sense. Do they even have any common sense?
The president threatens to veto legislation to help Veterans. Why? If not for them he would not be able to buy his way into the office of PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. Better think twice. Telling me to support soldiers is all well and good but who is going to support them when they are wounded, disabled? Certainly not DUMMY RUMMY or George Bush.