By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A problematic memo

When did editors at the Boston Globe know they might have a problem with a memo purportedly written in 1999 by a Big Dig safety officer named John Keaveney? Perhaps as early as Thursday. The memo — which warned that part of the tunnel ceiling could collapse — appeared to be a significant advance when the Globe’s Sean Murphy broke the story a day earlier.

According to this Thursday article, though, Slate’s Timothy Noah asked the Globe for a copy of the memo for his “Hot Document” column and was turned down. Noah writes:

The Globe, unfortunately, has published only excerpts of the two-page memo. “We are not releasing the Keveaney memo now,” Carolyn Ryan, the Globe‘s assistant managing editor for metropolitan news, e-mailed me after the article’s author, Sean P. Murphy, directed me her way. The paper “may [release it] in the future.” Ryan did not answer my followup e-mail asking why the Globe is witholding the memo.

Today, both the Globe’s Murphy and the Boston Herald’s Casey Ross and Dave Wedge report that Keaveney is being questioned to determine whether his memo was really a recently penned exercise in ex-post-facto butt-covering.

Among other things, it appears that Keaveney, who worked for the contractor Modern Continental, didn’t get his timing straight: He claimed to have observed problems with drill holes before the work had actually been done. Whoops.

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  1. Anonymous

    I agree, at this point it looks bad for the Globe, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they were sold a bill of goods.But let’s not forget all the incompetence and sleeze we’ve seen at the Big Dig. Maybe 100 people will come forward saying drilling started earlier than Modern Continental is claiming.If Keaveney was crafty and aware enough to have convincingly falsified that memo, I think the easiest part would have been getting the date at the top right.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    I’m not sure it looks all that bad for the Globe. But, barring some logical explanation, it looks very bad indeed for John Keaveney.

  3. John Galt

    Does anyone wonder why the United States is laughingstock globally? That the perception that we, as a people, are completely ignorant and devoid of the slightest hint of honesty? The slightest degree of honor?

  4. Anonymous

    Modern Continental now saying it’s phoney:, I don’t see why you say this isn’t so bad for the Globe if it turns out MC is telling the truth. Should it really be that easy to make a page one splash?(I’m still prepared to believe the memo is authentic. Just saying if it’s not, that’s another black eye for the Globe.)

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