Working for the government is ARCHAIC, believe me, I KNOW. My home system is faster, hipper more effective than my job "workstation". Now here we come to the White House, a place of residence and workplace only to look ARCHAIC to Obama staffers.
The lawyers broke the bad news to Obama aides at a briefing Friday morning convened by incoming Deputy White House Counsel Cassandra Butts: Not only are they leaving the modern world to enter a White House where some of the clunky desktop computers still run Windows 2000 but — worst of all — they'll be forced to surrender a form of communication staffers have relied on for the last two years to communicate with each other, outside allies, and the press.
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 school — AOL Instant Messager and Google Chat. Instant messaging, though little mentioned, is — perhaps as much as e-mail—deeply 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.
That's right, NO IM, Instant Messaging. I am not going to LIE, I use it on the daily to keep up with my friends all over the country. This form of medium, while at your workspace, can be quicker than email. But I totally understand the must of giving this up, it is called the electronic trail.
"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.
That lil' thing called the Presidential Records Act can catch you IN THE ACT, with the free wheeling of IMs. I know, some former co-workers got caught with some unsavory conversation and how did it happen? Well, their supervisor was suspicious of the overtly use of IM and wanted to read the conversations, remember the servers are like a date stamp and owned by the company, keeps the records and any admin with rights can pull the conversation off the server. The ease of IM and lingo can easily allow someone to slip and write something that is totally uncool and quite embarrassing.
"They're going to realize, once you go inside the bubble, it becomes much more difficult to maintain contact with the outside world," said Reginald Brown, a former associate White House counsel for President Bush. "IMing encourages a kind of casualness in conversation that will be the bane of the lawyers down the line. The reality is that if you want to engage in the equivalent of IMing, you have to pick up the phone."
Brown noted that, along with entering the permanent record after the presidency, the IMs could become public sooner in response to Congressional subpoenas or lawsuits.
This is the bottom line to all of this. Got something to say, need to catch up, pick the phone up. While my job allows IMs, many jobs don't or restrict IMs only within the job and only for work related issues.
I totally FEEL the young staffers going to the White House, but I have been harping on this, the Presidential Records Act needs a face lift to the 21st Century. It is totally laughable, to a point, that the White House is still behind the times. Just like Obama's blackberry messages and interaction can be preserved and protected for the Presidential Records Act, we can surely attempt to bring the White House up to 2009 technology standards. I mean, my god, Windows 2000??? That is totally archaic.