It Makes No Sense For The President To Not Use Email

from the get-with-the-times dept

Eight years ago, we noted that newly elected President George W. Bush had given up email, in order to avoid problems with open records laws on Presidential communications. Not surprisingly, there’s now a lot of speculation concerning whether or not President-Elect Barack Obama will now have to give up email as well. In the intervening eight years, email has become much more important, and, of course, Obama is a known Blackberry fanatic.

Eight years ago we thought this was a silly turn of events, and today it seems even more ridiculous. Email is an important and useful form of communication. It seems silly not to allow Obama to use email, and it’s difficult to see what the real advantage of cutting him off would be. The article mentions concerns about security, but no one is saying he should be sending nuclear codes or military training plans via email. The second concern is about the open records laws, that would potentially open up private communications to the public. Again, it seems like this can be dealt with in a variety of ways — either by changing the law to protect certain emails, or by having Obama make it clear to any and all emailers that their emails should be considered public records. It seems like there are better solutions out there than cutting him off entirely.

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Comments on “It Makes No Sense For The President To Not Use Email”

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OMAC says:

It makes perfect sense. The first time he gets on a spam list and starts getting emails about penile enhancement, internet dating or worse, they become public record. Or worse yet, if someone gets his email and sends him anything controversial, it becomes a matter of public record.

If someone wanted to harm is reputation all they would have to do is email him Anti-American or Pro-Muslim propaganda, or porn or pictures of a burning flag and wait for the uproar however long it may take. I wouldn’t want to be judged by the crap people send to my email address.

The only way around this is to change the laws. Maybe only count the stuff he responds to or sends out on his own.

DittoBox says:

Re: Re:

I’d like to know who in their right mind would dare use spam messages as mud to sling.

No, it isn’t a problem. Furthermore I think after the last eight years of Bush we deserve as much transparency as we can get. If this President is at least open about things and doesn’t claim “national security” and cover everything up, I’ll be happy. And no throwing anyone under the bus for daring to ask questions either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let’s face it, Bush lost when Cheney said in an interview that “People Have a Voice Every 4 Years.” which was later parroted by Dana Perino.

MS. PERINO: I didn’t say that, Helen. But, Helen, this President was elected —
Q Well, what it amounts to is you saying we have no input at all.
MS. PERINO: You had input. The American people have input every four years, and that’s the way our system is set up.
Q Every four years.
MS. PERINO: And we listen to —
Q It sounds familiar.
MS. PERINO: — different points of view. The President, in fact, had many meetings with members of Congress leading up to his decision about the surge.
Q Supposed to be a government for the people, of the people, by the people?
MS. PERINO: I would submit to you that people across America, if asked what type of a President do you want: one that stands on principle or that one that chases polls? And I think that they would want —
Q What’s the principle of going to war against the people who did nothing to us?

What? Don’t believe me? Here’s the source:

Today, let’s consider efforts such as

Not that I know anything…

Anonymous Coward says:

Obama: I want to use email.
White House Staffer: You can’t, sir.
Obama: Says who?
White House Staffer: Ummm, ahhh, Well….
Obama: Get it done by Friday.

If Obama wants to use email, guess what, they will figure out a way to address the security concerns and comply with the public records act. He’s the freaking President so if he really wants email he’ll ORDER someone to make it happen. It’s good to be the King.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Wow

Oh Paul will be back. They always come back to complain more. Its what blogs are for. I just wish they’d do normal things like make their own blog but since no one cares what they think so no one will read it they have to go to other blogs in order to complain.

Ironically I’m bitching myself. I guess I better go do it on my blog…

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Wow

Congratulations Mike, this is the most ignorant post I have ever read from you and is the sole reason I am finally removing this blog from my rss feed.

Hi Paul, considering you’re a regular here insulting me without EVER backing it up with reasons, I’m afraid I’m not too worried about this. Somehow I expect you’ll be back.

In the meantime, when you call someone ignorant, you usually explain why. The fact that (as per your usual MO) you fail to actually point out what’s wrong with the post leads me to believe that you don’t actually have an argument and just want to insult me.

Want to be a credible source of information and opinion? Try gathering some information on the things you have opinions about.

Want to be a credible critic? Try actually pointing out what someone you disagree with got wrong, and providing details.

From the beginning this blog has always been about a discussion. If people disagree with me, they are free to explain themselves in the comments and try to change my mind. You have not even tried.

duderino says:


I can understand why the president would want to CHOOSE to not use e-mail. What if he gets some stupid FWD from an idiot coworker that has some slightly sexist comments then all of a sudden you get fired because you’re idiot coworker didn’t put “NSFW” in the subject. Then’s he’s just gonna be getting my unemployed check on a biweekly basis that barely covers 50% of my rent, man that sucks !

Anonymous Coward says:

Okay this discussion has been had...

Just use thawte, ssl/rsa security. Sign/encrypt the mails, send out certificates, known users etc.

If you are prepared to make the effort (or pay a tech well enough to make the effort) then it can be secured.

As can known senders. Fine – you don’t want to send/receive encrypted mail, then you don’t need to email the president, goodbye, won’t you have a nice day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Look, I’m not a big partisan or anything, but didn’t someone criticize McCain for not using email?

I’m just saying that if the Obama camp gives up an efficient form of communication so they can keep secrets, that might not be the change we’ve been looking for.

Again, I like Obama, but we need to remember that once people get in power, their first goal is to keep power. Hiding communication would be a bad way to start.

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree with Erv Server. Also, encryption doesn’t stop leaks. Most people have had an email’s meaning misinterpreted by the recipient. Even Obama’s fanboys in the media wouldn’t pass up quoting an “official” white house email out of context. It is just a Fwd away in email. Most asychronous information would be going through aids and advisors.

Anonymous Coward says:

Nelson - Your example

What! do you live under a rock?

>>>could you please give me an example of an email being hacked or intercepted in any way shape or form on a secure network (which the white house obviously has)?

Yes I can!

Chinese Hackers Breach White House Computers, Documents Accessed (Nov 7, 2008)

pgp or GPG are only as good as someone’s pass phrase and computer security. There are VERY few people that take the time and effort to keep truly strong passwords, and computers that they *KNOW* have not been compromised. If the computer AT EITHER END has been compromised then the e-mails could be compromised and the keys could be compromised as well.

Basically, if your computer is plugged into a network, or out of your site. You can not possibly *KNOW* that it has not been compromised. There are hardware hacks, software hacks, man in the middle attacks, root kits, social engineering attacks . . .

With a given level of expertise you can reach a specific level of certainty that your computer has not been compromised. However, when it comes to e-mail you have to not only worry about your computer, but your e-mail account, all the servers and routers that the e-mail passes through. And the worst part the ability of the person at the other end of that e-mail to secure their computer, e-mail, pgp or GPG keys, passwords, . . .

OK so you are willing to accept all of these risks? Now remember Obama is a self professed Blackberry addict. That adds a whole new level to the security tree, and it is not at all secure. Now you have to worry about Blackberry’s severs, the Cellular Networks, his cell phone . . .

If the President elect wants to continue to use his Blackberry to say hi to his kids, I m sure that would be fine. But there is NO WAY it should be used for ANY work related items AT ALL. There simply is no way to know things are secure, and you would be amazed what you can figure out by monitoring someones e-mails, by what is said, what is implied and what is not said. Especially if you have access to ‘supporting documentation’.

If the International Bank, CIA, FBI, congress, foreign governments, and even the White house computer system have been breached how much faith do you really think a responsible person should put in the security of that e-mail with or without pgp?

Mark says:

Of course, he can use email

The issue isn’t can he use email. It’s that as President, he can’t use personal email. All his communications are official records and have to be preserved by NARA.

Doesn’t anyone remember when Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al., were discovered to have used a Republican National Committee email system to circumvent the official Whitehouse email system?

Security and time management concerns aside, he could even use a Blackberry as long as it’s tied to the Whitehouse email server.

Koby says:


Again, it seems like this can be dealt with in a variety of ways — either by changing the law to protect certain emails, or by having Obama make it clear to any and all emailers that their emails should be considered public records. It seems like there are better solutions out there than cutting him off entirely.

Email, like most other communication forms, are really only useful if we’re convinced that the communications won’t be publicly broadcast. Simply disclosing that all email is public domain is not much of an assurance. I’m know that I wouldn’t send any emails under such circumstance. Already, I limit my email communication at work because my boss could potentially look at it, and I’m confident that he really doesn’t care and has probably never bothered to check anything. So until congress changes the law to make all emails off-limits, I think Obama is just being smart to abandon email, rather than risk truly confidential information getting turned over to some leaky courthouse from some petty lawsuit.

Freedom says:

Micro-managers can't lead...

Combine this with wanting a laptop in the oval office and I don’t think he gets it. He is a leader now and has people to handle the details.

Sadly, I’m extremely worried that these are fairly clear signs of a leader that will micro-manage or potentially worse yet someone that doesn’t have any idea of the job he just won.

On you way up, it is like a small business where you are the jack of all trades. When you get to job of being the President, you better just be the leader and willing to let others handle the details. If not, welcome to Jimmy Carter 2.0


Andrew says:

The current President may not use e-mail but the white-house does...

I know for a fact that the current administration in the white-house uses e-mail, and that it is archived. However that doesn’t mean the President uses e-mail, just that some to all of his staff do use e-mail. Is it any different if the pres. tells some secretary to e-mail something off for him. As far as Obama, he could e-mail to whomever he wanted but he needs to be aware that each e-mail will be recorded as part of the NARA, I think it would be a good sign of moving to a more modern government if he did use e-mail (and yes messages from a blackberry could be easily preserved as well.) However from what I’ve seen of a President’s duties and available time, I somehow don’t think he’ll have a lot of time to e-mail either, but again that’s all up to him and not me.

Pamm Rodgers` says:

Wild horses Las Vegas Nevada

I was listening to a talk show about the wild horses in Las Vegas and that they were put there to breed eat and be safe. Now its being said that they are under no danger but the government or Cia are taking these animals for no reason and slaughtering them and selling them for meat,or whatever. This is animal cruelty and It was said we should notify President Obama and see what his opinion on this matter is. I hope that he or someone can put a stop to it. There are other ways if its out of control……. adoption of these horses is one way I can think of!!!!!!!!!!

Ferin (profile) says:

This is getting out of ahnd

Ok, when I first heard about this, it was that he couldn’t use his blackberry due to concerns about it’s security. A reasonable idea. The service isn’t controlled by the government, fine. But every successive story I’ve seen the blackout gets wider and wider.

Does anyone have an acutal straight answer? Is he giving up the crackberry, or all E-comms? And why the hell could the Whitehouse’s internal email servers not be secure enough for the president to use, at least for day to day business?

Three Men In A Boat says:

It Makes No Sense For The President To Not Use Email

The issue is not security. The issue is that the President does not have any legal way to use email for personal use, exempt from archival for eventual release. All emails would eventually become part of the public record.

The President and the Executive branch can claim “executive privilege” to shield themselves from providing documentation or testimony, but applying that to individual emails would be practically impossible.

Three Men In A Boat says:

Re: It Makes No Sense For The President To Not Use Email

What I mean is that for email to be useful to the President, he’d want to get a lot of email that he would want to be shielded by executive privilege. But Presidents usually want to shield everything via executive privilege. So, all the email would be stored, and then there would be endless Freedom Of Information Act requests and lawsuits and each email would have to be assessed by some court to see if executive privilege was warranted.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Maarja Krusten.

It is worth reading Maarja Krusten’s various postings, if you want to understand presidential records. She is a government historian and archivist, who worked on the Nixon tapes, and has discussed, extensively, the whole issue of secret records.

See especially her postings on History News Network.

chris (profile) says:

obama may have to give up his personal email

it’s not that he can’t use email, it’s that he can’t use his personal email to conduct govt. business.

this was the problem with the white house email scandal a couple of years ago, that RNC email which is purged on a regular basis, was used to discuss official govt. business.

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