Strong opinions, weakly held

Modernizing White House technology

One of the small but persistent questions that’s hounded Barack Obama since he announced he was running for President was whether or not he’d be allowed to keep his Blackberry. The arguments against are based on security (which I don’t really understand) and the archiving requirements of the Presidential Records Act, which came into law in 1978.

Today I read that White House employees will be barred from using instant messaging due to the Presidential Rights Act.

Matthew Yglesias suggests that Obama could probably succeed in getting a modernized law passed that would end the controversy over White House employees using modern tools to get their work done. There are no barries to archiving every type of communication that would be subject to archiving laws. This is not a technology problem, it’s a law problem. It seems to me that Obama is the right President to fix it.

Maybe solving this problem is a good job for the yet-to-be-named government chief technology officer.

1 Comment

  1. The security argument is likely based on the fact that the encryption on the Blackberry is not based on an NSA-generated key, and also because the Blackberry is probably not EM-field protected, which is required for use in secret/top secret environments.

    The basic idea is that electronics give off a field that can be read by sophisticated listening devices, and they also pick up fields from other electronics around them. This EM crossover can be deciphered and used to break government keys.

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