Setting Things Straight

Okay, so Denis posted about Prez Bush’s old military records being curiously “destroyed” and unavailable for review. Over the weekend I commented on this story to Jen and Denis and relayed a story from when I worked at Immigration.

When I was in college I spent my summers working for various departments in Immigration & Naturalization Service in Washington DC. I was there four summers in a row, and it was a lot of fun – I generally worked for different people each year but was always on the same floor so I kept seeing the same people every year. Another part of working at INS was getting to be friends with the other college interns there – there were TONS of them, and I usually got to know those that were sworn in the same day as I was. My first year there, in between my freshman and sophomore college years, I got to know a guy named Heath and a girl named Surbhi. On our lunch hours we’d meet up and swap stories about how our day was going and news of other interns on our floor.

One day, halfway through the summer, Heath came in and told us a story I couldn’t believe, but he witnessed it and was really angry about it, so I figured it must be true. He then began a huge rant about how some interns were just idiots and shouldn’t be allowed to even use a pencil. This was the story:

Heath worked in the documents department for INS – processing not only brand new documents for immigrants trying to obtain US citizenship, but also processing of old documents (filing, copying, recording, preserving, etc.). He worked in the department with a few other interns and they were all pooled together for a particular assignment. INS had decided that some of their really old original documentation (birth certificates, citizenship forms etc. from the early 1900s) was becoming too flimsy and delicate. This was 1988, before really technology had come along for electronic saving of documents (after all the government lags at least a decade behind for ANY technology). So the interns were asked to xerox copy all of the documents, one by one, and staple the copy to the original and put it back in the file. That way they’d have the ORIGINAL and a copy that was more readable and stable.

Well, one of the interns got sick of xeroxing each sheet (basically, paper that was tissue-paper-like) and decided to FORM FEED the original documents in the copier. Well, you can guess what happened – dozens of razor thin, barely there documents got hosed in the copier. Just absolutely torn to shreds. What does the intern do? HE KEEPS TRYING WITH OTHER DOCUMENTS. Heath said that by the time he came along, the intern had BUCKETS of torn paper in the trashcan beside him – anything that got caught in the xerox machine was just being THROWN AWAY, without a copy since they all got jammed in the xerox machine. Heath said that the intern had been working for two hours on the project and had probably destroyed hundreds of important documents at that point.

Now granted, they were all early century documents – so the likelihood of someone trying to FIND or someone in NEED of these particular documents were slim to none, but they were still important legal documents to SOMEONE and should have been preserved.

But imagine this taking place at the Pentagon. Some higher up asks his staffers to preserve documents, and those staffers pick a few interns out to do the project. Get just a couple idiots like the Heath’s fellow intern (who was later let go when word got out about his actions) and voila – it’s easy for me to imagine files getting accidently destroyed.

So is it “convenient” that Bush’s records were destroyed? No. But it’s certainly plausible. Anyone who worked for the government in a low level position knows that much.

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  1. Weirdly, I used to work for an immigration law firm. To hear this doesn’t surprise me in the least — I have long suspected that INS eats the paperwork we sent them. *grin*

  2. Interesting, except I wouldn’t think there would be any original birth certificates, since those originals would probably be still in the immigrants’ countries respective SSA-type agencies.

    As far as Bush goes, are these military records the sort of which he himself might have received and retained copies? Furthermore, what about his gubernatorial files that are convienently stashed in Daddy’s presidential library and unavailable to the public? If he’s not hiding anything, he shouldn’t be hiding anything, right?

  3. Diana, there WERE original birth certificates in the paperwork that intern worked on. Infants born in America while their parents were still being processed to become citizens. All of that stuff would go into the immigrant’s files as well. Obviously they wouldn’t do that TODAY, but it was done then, as far as I know (and based on Heath’s description at the time, since he was involved in the project).

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