President Barack Obama will be able to continue to use a personal digital assistant like the Blackberry he used during the campaign, which naturally required security improvements. But more important, the new administration has agreed that any messages he sends through the device will be subject to the Presidential Records Act.
Coming on the heels of a series of court orders intended to force President George W. Bush's administration to turn over more than 14 million email messages it said it had lost, it's a welcome change.
Certainly, security plays a major role in Obama's use of the device, not just technologically but also with "social engineering." In two press briefings, on January 22 and 23, press secretary Robert Gibbs described Obama's use of the device.
"The President has a BlackBerry, through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends in a way that use will be limited and that the security is enhanced to ensure his ability to communicate, but to do so effectively and to do so in a way that is protected," Gibbs said. "There's a process by which people that have access to the email will be briefed before anything like that can happen." Recipients will be "a limited group of senior staffers and some personal friends -- it's a pretty small group of people," he added.
Gibbs also confirmed that records would be kept and made available. "The presumption regarding those emails are that they're all subject to the Presidential Records Act," he said, with the possible exception of "some narrow exemptions in the Presidential Records Act to afford for strictly personal communications. "
But given the news of the past few months, where vice presidential candidates and governors have attempted to circumvent records laws by using Yahoo! Mail -- and gotten their accounts hacked -- and where even county officials in states such as Idaho have attempted to cover their tracks by deleting email, saving the records for posterity may end up being more important in the long run than keeping them away from hackers.