Obviously, it’s common knowledge that President-Elect Barack Obama loves his Blackberry. It’s been all over the news today, mostly because the New York Times imagines that the “endorsement” is worth $25-50 million.
I’m not entirely sure that there aren’t suitable technological workarounds to the security risks being touted. I mean, we are the United frickin’ States of America. The idea that we can’t hack together one of our military satellites to be compatible with an SMS server and a Blackberry is pretty laughable to me (that is if you think the threat of the telecoms getting hacked by someone other than our government is legitimate enough to worry about).
Aside from the security threat it may or may not pose, the other hurdle to Obama keeping his Blackberry is one of Obama’s own making, and if he’d only make the small acquiescence from the onset of his presidency that President Bush may have been right about something, he can keep in touch with the American people and pierce the Beltway Bubble.
I actually put two and two together on this quite a while back, but I didn’t have the time to write it up. Given that today is a particularly slow day, I spent the hour or so trying to find the resources on this and connect the dots.
If You Don’t Know About Executive Order 13233, Read This
It actually all goes back Nixon. When Nixon was under fire for doing the things he was doing wrong (like destroying records of wrong-doing), Congress passed a law mandating that records of presidential communications must be kept intact for processing by national archivists and historians after the president leaves office.
Of course, if you’re a sufferer of Bush Derangement Syndrome, you’re probably aware that one of the first acts of President Bush was to further prevent the records of President Reagan from becoming public with two successive claims of executive privilege, followed by Executive Order 13233 in early 2002.
E.O. 13233 had the net effect limiting all access to presidential communication pertaining to “military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, Presidential communications, legal advice, legal work, or the deliberative processes of the President and the President’s advisers.” In other words, everything but what he’d probably post on Twitter anyway.
The other important thing you need to know about Executive Order 13233 is that while campaigning for president made the promise to get rid of it, and restore the public’s access to presidential records as per Congress’s intent in 1974.
That Brings You Up to Date
… And now you know why it’s a legal nightmare for presidents to keep their electronic communicative means. It’s why President Bush closed out his AOL account, and President Clinton stopped it with the email, and why President-Elect Obama is being pressured to cut it out with the Blackberry.
Not only is every offhanded comment subject to public review, the ease of communication makes it much more likely that the sheer volume of data could topple the very process by which this data is reviewed by historians and archivists.
Here’s the thing, though: if Obama decides he absolutely must have his Blackberry, it’s as easy as a stroke of a pen (and a broken promise).
Congress intends to move quick on Obama’s promise, so he’ll need to make a snap decision on this. According to news reports, pending parts of legislation in the Presidential Library Donation Act of 2009 “would overturn Executive Order 13233 issued by President George W. Bush and restore procedures to ensure the timely release of presidential records.”
“And, with the Presidential Library Donation Act, we will do away with anonymous donations by foreign countries and nationals, and make certain that the process is transparent to the public,” Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-N.Y.) said.
If Obama simply sends this bill back to Congress with a Post-It attached, asking for a “Blackberry amendment,” he can keep it.
Keep in mind, this only addresses the legal aspects of all of this. Security issues are another post, but depending on how strong his “addiction” is, this might be the route Obama will want to pursue.