Much is being made of the deliberations as to whether President Obama will be able to keep using his beloved Blackberry. As the New York Times reports, there are two major sets of objections:
- Legal/records retention
Deven Coldeway of CrunchGear does a good job of showing that the technological infosecurity problems can surely be solved. I'd only add that the "Omigod, he left his Blackberry behind at dinner" issue is absurd. Presidents are surrounded by attendants, Secret Service and otherwise. Somebody just has to add the job of keeping track of the president's personal communication device.
So the only legitimate issue is legal -- can the president afford to put things in writing that will surely be exposed by courts and archivists later? The answer to that depends largely on the subject matter or recipient. Email to his Chicago friends? Sure! Anything he'd write to them would be necessarily non-secret anyway. Email to the Secretary of Defense? That might be a different matter. Email to his speechwriters? That would probably be OK.
I.e., President Obama can safely keep his Blackberry if he restricts its use to low-secrecy and/or non-official matters.
I'd like to conclude with two arguments as to why President Obama keeping email access would be a very good thing. One is that few insights into history are more valuable than those that can be found in people's letters. It would be a boon to the world -- or at least to future historians -- if President Obama were to leave a daily trail of personal electronic correspondence. The second is a reiteration of Paul Begala's point:
... one of the many strengths Barack Obama brings to the White House is that up till now he's led a pretty normal life.As president he'll need to hear from the folks who made it normal.
If a Blackberry and ESPN SportsCenter are what Obama needs to stay grounded, I think they absolutely should remain part of his life. It's worth whatever fuss is needed to make it happen.
Edit: Here's a sequel post, with links and response to a couple of intense discussions.