BarackBerry may bite the bullet

President-elect Barack Obama
President-elect Barack Obama loves him some BlackBerry. And who can blame him? Apparently the Secret Service can, as they’re trying to wrest it from his grasp. In these litigious times, the Executive Branch is understandably eager to stave off as many Freedom of Information Act requests as it can, and the President’s email-on-the-go would likely be a popular target for such requests.

The New York Times opines

do we really want the leader of the free world taking time off from the problems of climate change and economic collapse to manage his spam, or play a quick game of BrickBreaker?

You know what? If the President of the United States of America wants to play some BrickBreaker while using the john on Air Force One, I say go for it. King George took plenty of vacations during his time in the White House, so I’m not going to begrudge Mister Obama a couple minutes of diversion from the stresses of his job.

The NYT does touch on a couple of interesting points, though. There’s the obvious concern of RIM acting as a middleman (by way of their Blackberry Enterprise Server) for the delivery of Presidential emails. Knowing that Mr. Obama’s emails were flowing through the RIM infrastructure might make them an enticing target, even though the messages are strongly encrypted during transit.

More interesting, though just as difficult to execute, would be to hook into the location awareness of modern cell phones to identify, roughly, where the President might be. It would almost certainly be an attack that required insider access to the cellular infrastructure, but it’s not entirely inconceivable.

Speaking practically, though, it’s far more likely that a simple screwup in the configuration or maintenance of the BES, or RIM’s services, could lead to an unintended breach. Computers are managed by fallible human beings, and it only takes one sloppy or tired sysadmin to inadvertently open the floodgates.

Here’s what really sticks in my craw, though:

the pesky lawyers, who worry that Mr. Obama’s impromptu thumb-tapped conversations could become subject to legal battles.

We trust this man with the nuclear codes, and to represent the entire population of the United States in global affairs, but we can’t trust him to exercise sound judgment when it comes to composing emails? Sure, he’s human, and there’s no shortage of lascivious news stories about people in high places making bone-headed decisions when it comes to emails or text messages; but come on — this is 2009, and mobile email is hardly a new thing. Being able to be engaged and responsive on the issues of his position seems to me to outweigh the potential for poor decision making.

Doesn’t this all make you wonder why the White House doesn’t have some military-grade solution to this problem? Why would the Commander-in-Chief be using consumer grade messaging? Or is this perhaps all a smokescreen? Would it be too much of a giveaway if Mr. Obama gleefully gave up his Blackberry without indicating what he was going to use to replace it?