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Electronic-discovery worries may lead to BlackBerry blackout for Obama

See, maybe we all shouldn’t have been so down on John McCain for acknowledging that he didn’t know how to send an email – apparently, it’s something presidents don’t do, thanks to electronic-discovery concerns. According to, in taking his oath for office, President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to carry his BlackBerry, and will probably not send an email for (at least) four years.

That’s because, according to the article, the president’s emails, whether personal or for business, are subject to a subpoena at any time and could be considered public records. Neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush emailed while they were in office, CNN reports.

“It’s all discoverable; it creates a trail that might end up in congressional investigators’ hands,” said Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry in the CNN article. If you want to delete White House email, you get a stern warning about archiving presidential records, he said.

Now, I’ll ignore the fact that CNN’s fact checker apparently missed a beat with this article (toward the bottom, there’s a psychology professor quoted from Keene State University, but it should be Keene State College – that’s my hometown). But I’m still kind of baffled and left at a loss with this whole issue. Naturally, the president wouldn’t want his private emails out there for the world to see. But am I the only one who thinks that there must be some better solution than the chief executive of the country living without email?

There’s a reason that email is so ubiquitous in the business world: It allows for communication across geography and time-zone differences. It can provide useful information more quickly and efficiently to a range of people, and certainly increases productivity, in my view. Shouldn’t the chief executive of a 300-million person “corporation” have access to the same tools on which other top executives rely, especially when he’s clearly already a “CrackBerry” addict?

Maybe the answer is to give Obama “read-only” access to his email. That way, he can feel in the loop without ever typing a sentence or hitting “send.” What would you suggest, given his current “BlackBerry blackout” predicament?

It’s up to Obama whether he keeps using email, of course – he’s the president, and I don’t think anybody can command him not to send an email. I’ll be curious to see which way he goes, and whether he feels more or less productive as a result.

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He should not be given read access. This could also be a point of contention in a discovery process. What did he know, and when did he know it? There's too much room for weasel action if you give him any type of tool. Stick with good old paper and pen. It's also cheaper.