Nervous System: Oliver North and the Origin Story of Legal Technology


E-discovery may be common in today’s legal world, but that certainly wasn’t always the case. This month’s history of cybersecurity looks back to how discovery technology was developed, and what it has to do with the Iran-Contra affair.

“With the aggressive pace of technological change and the onslaught of news regarding data breaches, cyber-attacks, and technological threats to privacy and security, it is easy to assume these are fundamentally new threats. The pace of technological change is slower than it feels, and many seemingly new categories of threats have been with us longer than we remember. Nervous System is a monthly series that approaches issues of data privacy and cybersecurity from the context of history—to look to the past for clues about how to interpret the present and prepare for the future.

In November 1986, an internal leak to the press exposed a secret United States operation to funnel the proceeds of weapons sold to the Islamic Republic of Iran (in violation of an arms embargo) to fund the revolutionary Contras in Nicaragua (in contravention of Congress). As the press started to cover the scandal, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North went to his computer at the National Security Council and started deleting emails pertaining to his role in the scheme. Over the course of a frantic weekend, he manually deleted around 750 emails.:

Click here to read the entire breakdown written by Davis Kalat for law.com.