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If Maslow were to write his hierarchy of needs today, “email” and “BlackBerry” would probably appear just after (or perhaps just before) food and shelter. Every day, millions of people wake up and, as sure as their morning coffee, check their inboxes and BlackBerrys. Thus begins a process that continues throughout the day as millions of jittery clickers anxiously await new messages and correspondence. And just like the rest of us, President-elect Barack Obama checks his email too.

Obama has used email for a number of years, and although he changed his phone number during the campaign, he kept the same email address. On the trail, surrounded by the press and largely isolated from the outside world, Obama avoided campaign purgatory by using email to keep in touch with friends and family, as well as to conduct business. He used a BlackBerry (we don’t know what model) to receive emails, review memos, and study briefing books. His campaign manager, David Axelrod, commented that his “BlackBerry was constantly crackling with e-mails.” But all this may soon change.

Even though a significant percentage of the population would probably take their BlackBerrys (and email accounts) to a deserted island before their spouse, President-elect Barack Obama may not be able to bring his with him into the White House in January. Because of security and legal concerns, Obama may have to shut off his BlackBerry and sign out of his email account for the next four years.

Experts say that it’s simply too risky for the president to use email or a BlackBerry because, no matter how many precautions are taken, any system can be hacked and messages could be intercepted. It’s true that other public officials have had bad experiences with email. During the presidential campaign, Sarah Palin’s Yahoo! email account was hacked and some of her personal emails were copied to the press.

Experts also say Obama may not be able to use an email account as president because of the Presidential Records Act, which places presidential documents in the official record where they may be subpoenaed and made public. If Obama were to use email in the White House, a whole host of legal issues would be raised.

Ultimately, whether Obama becomes the first president to wield a BlackBerry, an email account, and the veto power remains to be seen. If he’s anything like the rest of us, quitting could be hazardous to his (mental) health. 

–Dan Nixa

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One Response to The Experts: No BlackBerrys in the White House

  1. [...] and, despite his aids’ entreaties, he is resisting giving it up before he takes office. During the campaign, he was seen using it, and often spoke highly of the black, palm-sized device. Obama recently stated [...]