President-elect Barack Obama is being told he will have to give up his Blackberry, by aides who fear subpoenas, the Presidential Records Act and e-mail insecurity. (Framed copies of this Time cover are already priced at $19.95.)
While this is not entirely an open source story, it does get to the heart of what the Internet (and open source) make possible in all our lives. I have a four-word response.
Free the Obama Blackberry.
The reason for our obsession with reducing sources of Presidential records over the last 40 years has been the occasional Presidential obsession for bending and breaking laws.
That is the heart of the problem. Not secrecy. Not security. Not privacy.
For too many in the government and media, the main lesson of Watergate seems to have been don't record anything. If they can't get proof you can be above the law.
Nonsense. And putting paid to this nonsense is an important policy point.
But let's make this a tech story again.
- Can we maintain text records on phone calls? Yes we can.
- Can we do the same on cell records? Yes we can.
- Can we make people testify to private conversations? Yes we can.
- Can we put this President, and all future Presidents, back under the restraints of the law? Yes we can.
Computer technology creates an easy-to-follow audit trail on everything we do, whether we're blog writers or the President of the United States.
Trying to take the President "off the grid" is becoming more technically difficult and more legally indefensible every day.
My advice to the President-elect is that when they come for your Blackberry, say no.
And suggest they get one as well. Or maybe the new Google Android.