No instant messaging in Obamas White House

January 18th, 2009 - 6:58 pm ICT by ANI  

Barack Obama

Washington, Jan.18 (ANI): Lawyers have told aides to incoming US President Barack Obama that they may have to leave most of their modern appliances like their laptops and mobile phones and their favourite form of communication instant messaging behind when they enter the White House on and after January 20, 2009.
From Axelrod, the chief campaign strategist, down to junior staffers in the press office, Obama’’s campaign relied heavily on software many of them began using in high schoolAOL Instant Message and Google Chat.
Instant messaging, though little mentioned, isperhaps as much as emaildeeply woven into contemporary politics and media, whose fabric is the constant, quick, gossipy transmission of spin and information. But a calculus that’’s perhaps one part security, one part law, and two parts politics, has long barred instant messaging from the White House.
“They just told us flat out we couldn”t IM in the White House,” groused one senior staffer Friday.
“It sucks. It’’s really going to slow us down,” complained another, saying that lawyers had warned that, along with Instant Messaging, White House software will restrict users to a range of sites roughly “like your average grade school.”
The clunky technology is standard issue for government offices, but the bar on instant messaging is particular to the White House.
Legal and security experts say it is dictated by the fear of embarrassment if IMs were to be disclosed.
The Presidential Records Act requires White House documents to become public five years after a president leaves office, and most lawyers think it would apply to any instant messages discussing government business, Politico reports.
The Bush Administration has been rebuked by federal courts for the apparent destruction of emails sent by political aides on non-governmental accounts, and Obama’’s aides are intensely aware that any instant messages written must be preserved, and will become part of the permanent record, which may not be desirable.
The instant message ban is just part of a maze Obama’’s lawyers are preparing to enter, as the 1978 record act faces up to contemporary technology.
Lawyers believe, for instance, that any government-related content Obama’’s aides put on social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter will be covered by the act and must be preserved. (ANI)

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