Fake Issue

IT bureaucracies have a way of ginning up all kinds of contradictory reasons to keep people from doing things that, while not really impossible, are inconvenient to IT. Take, for example, the issue of providing e-mail service to the Most Powerful Man on Earth:

In addition to concerns about e-mail security, [Obama] faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A decision has not been made on whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.

So, on the one hand there’s the problem of maintaining security, and on the other hand there’s the problem that everything said will be on the public record. Hey, wait a minute, those are contradictory objections! Taken together, they are meaningless.

Take them separately then.

Security. Does the Director of Central Intelligence have e-mail. How about his subordinate? How about the subordinate’s subordinate. At some point, someone dealing in highly sensitive national secrets has e-mail already, and is probably using it to transmit those secrets to other people dealing in highly sensitive national secrets. E-mail security in the government is a “solved problem”.

Publicity. Simply attach a .sig to every outgoing Obama e-mail, “Please remember, all messages sent to me are, or will become, part of the public record of the United States.”

Kennedy (and famously, Nixon) recorded his Oval Office meetings, including some pretty blunt discussion. Presidents make pretty blunt notations on the margins of memos they are reading. It all ends up in the public record.

Unless they are saying they think President Obama doesn’t have the self-control to realize that his e-mail is going to be public at some point, I really fail to see how e-mail is a medium so radically different from all preceding that the President has to actually stop using it.

Heck, the most effective argument against email in the New York Times article came near the end. Says Diana Owen, of the Georgetown American Studies program:

It’s a time burner. It might be easier for him to say, “I can’t be on e-mail. “

Truer words were never spoken. Could be worse though, he could be blogger.