Blackberry Jungle

Friday, January 23, 2009


When President Obama won his fight on Thursday to keep his beloved Blackberry, White House communications leapt headlong into the 21st century. But technology and open-government expert Ari Schwartz says that with technological progress comes great responsibility.

Comments [6]

Danny P from bronxville

I am completey against the idea of having my country be vulbernable to our countries secrets just because the president wants to be able to use his cell phone for email. He stated that " he wants to find out from people outside his office what is going on in America". There are many alternative ways to do so without having to worry about invasion of privacy or the idea of giving out our countries secrets.

Feb. 18 2009 05:16 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

When I think of President Obama, I remember seeing he and Michelle at a weekend National Conference and Day of Action held by an umbrella organization for community organizing projects in Washington, D.C. in spring, 1991 but, prepared for as early as summer the previous year by the establishment of a newsgroup on a forerunner of the Internet, maybe the Ethernet.

In the weeks and months that then led to the disassembling of the Coalition for People, where we worked, Dave Weber and I discussed changing the focus of our project to teaching computer literacy in our community. It seems as if President Obama learned the lessons of that apparently successful conference and day of action earlier and faster than Dave and I could put into practice but, I suspect he had been already been working on the problem and was probably instrumental in the forming of the newgroup.

I guess Washington looked up and took notice when Barack and Michelle showed up and showed just what they could do with this newfangled tool. It would have been a shame to take that tool away from them.

Jan. 29 2009 02:23 AM
Chuck Piotrowski from Wallingford, Vermont

The government has a chief records officer and that is the Archivist of the United States. Under their realm is the NARA, the government's records management arm. These folks should have been consulted in your story.

If I may be allowed to use a plumbing analogy; the CTO should be responsible for successful continual operation of the pipes and pumps (the network, hardware, software). The records managers are ones who are responsible for the temperature and the quality of the water (content).

The US has consistently underfunded its mandates for public records management and FOIA requests. Until this funding is satisfactory, all technology advancements may prove to add to the mismanagement, rather than resolve the problems around government records.

Jan. 25 2009 11:34 AM
John Lumea from Brooklyn, NY


One reason why the Sectera Edge is not the latest high-tech sensation to adorn the belt clips, purses, and man bags of the world --- the price tag: $3,350.


New York Times blog item:

Atlantic blog item (from Marc Ambinder):

General Dynamics product page for Sectera Edge:

Jan. 25 2009 11:12 AM
Pat Galloway from Austin, TX

I teach digital records archiving after having spent twenty years working in a state government archives, and your 1/25/09 story on technology use in the White House and the Presidential Records Act was seriously incomplete without some informed input from the National Archives, which has over the last few years struggled to recover records from the Bush administration without having the political power to exercise its statutory authority in the face of considerable resistance and the Executive Order you mentioned--or the historical funding to have created an adequate digital repository to receive them by now. And as far as what a "record" is: in the actions of government, government archivists' rule of thumb is that everything is theoretically a potential record since they are created or received by elected officials or government employees "in the normal course of business." But records are managed by retention schedules (which have the force of law) and some can be scheduled to be destroyed quickly and even automatically, whereas others are scheduled to be preserved "for the life of the republic." Accountability through the record is constructed by the process of records management, perhaps the most invisible activity (to the public) in government.

Jan. 25 2009 11:11 AM
John Lumea from Brooklyn, NY


Word is that President Obama will not be using a literal "Blackberry."

Rather, he will be using a device called the "Sectera Edge," developed and produced by the defense contractor General Dynamics for the National Security Agency.

According to device's product page on the General Dynamics Web site, the Sectera Edge the Sectéra Edge "accommodates wear and tear from both office users securing day-to-day communications or warfighters completing a tactical mission" and is the only such device that has "one-touch switching between classified and unclassified PDA functions."

Going forward with this and related stories, I would urge On the Media and, indeed, the media in general to use a truly generic term like "smartphone" or "PDA," rather than "BlackBerry."

Referring to the President's "BlackBerry" advances the mistaken idea that the President of the United States is communicating via a souped-up version of a gadget that any person on the street could pick up from Best Buy.

Not true.

Jan. 25 2009 10:52 AM

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