January 16, 2009

"It's just one tool among a number of tools that I'm trying to use, to break out of the bubble, to make sure that people can still reach me."

A man wants his Blackberry, even if he is to be President.
"If I'm doing something stupid, somebody in Chicago can send me an email and say, 'What are you doing?'

"I want to be able to have voices, other than the people who are immediately working for me, be able to reach out and send me a message about what's happening in America."
Well, can somebody in Madison, Wisconsin reach out and tell you, Barack, don't be an idiot?

But I'm touched that he sees he's about to be pulled out of the realm of normal human connections and he's still got that part that says: Nooooooo!

75 comments:

Horace said...

Just wait 'til the subpoenas start flying; he'll lose that Blackberry quicker than a preacher's daughter losing her virginity.

Original George said...

Tool.

Lexington Green said...

Jimmy Carter tried to do the same thing. He had a call in number or something like that.

It didn't work.

Reagan's method worked. He read a pile of random handwritten letters from ordinary Americans and wrote a response by hand. His staff thought this an idiotic waste of his time. His staff were idiots. It was Antaeus staying in touch with the Earth. It was the source of his strength.

Barack should come up with some similar process, probably electronic. The need is real. And Barack is right to know it. The BB is not, probably, the answer, though.

Palladian said...

""If I'm doing something stupid, somebody in Chicago can send me an email and say, 'What are you doing?'"

Somebody in Chicago? I'd take assessments of stupid behavior emanating from Chicago with a grain or two of salt.

"I want to be able to have voices... be able to reach out and send me a message about what's happening in America"

Does this mean he's going to start Twittering? Can I be his Facebook friend without appending "Hussein" to my name like all his other douchebag Facebook friends?

So what happens if the President loses his Blackberry? Or hacks his account? Will he store the nuke codes in a GoogleDoc?

Eli Blake said...

Well, it's been less than five years since he was only a state legislator, and still was going to the supermarket late at night with a $5 bill his wife gave him and looking for the cheapest brand of milk so he could feed his kids and stay within the budget.

Becoming President this fast, he's losing a lot of perspective and maybe he doesn't want to lose all of it.

Incidentally if you still want to get in touch with him with or without the blackberry you can go to this site, where you can submit your own ideas or vote for or against other people's ideas. It was set up by Valerie Jarrett and the Obama transition team and he has promised that he will personally look at the highest scored ideas from the site.

Palladian said...

"But I'm touched that he sees he's about to be pulled out of the realm of normal human connections and he's still got that part that says: Nooooooo!"

Oh that happened a long time ago. Once you've appeared on stage at a stadium with Oprah, you're no longer in the realm of normal human connections.

Eli Blake said...

Whoops. That is just the transition teams' website. The specific place to submit your ideas is Citizens briefing book.

Palladian said...

"Becoming President this fast, he's losing a lot of perspective and maybe he doesn't want to lose all of it."

Too late.

"It was set up by Valerie Jarrett and the Obama transition team and he has promised that he will personally look at the highest scored ideas from the site."

Oh great, not only is he a poll-driven President before he's President, he's an internet poll driven President. "Wow, Valerie, the kids at TheOne.com all think I should behead George Bush with a scimitar on the steps of the White House! Guess that's the Will of the People! Have Rahm set it up!"

blake said...

So, years later, will we hear that when he won the nomination, he was sad, because he had a good life back in Chicago?

David said...

He has been out of the realm of normal human contact for a while now.

Why do you think that the biggest regret most Presidents express is that they will miss the wonderful people of the White House staff?

Because these are pretty much the only normal people they have seen for 4 or 8 years, even if the relationship is not a normal relationship of equals.

1jpb said...

Palladian is on fire in this thread, in a good way.

Funny, even for a KoolAid fan.

JAL said...

Have Rahm set it up!

Speaking of Rahm ... has anybody heard from, seen or even heard of this guy since Blagojevich chatted with him last?

You mean he is still on the The O Team? WHERE is he and why hasn't the press been following him around telling us all the important things he is doing as Chief of Staff elect?

The absence is deafening.

Does HE have a BlackBerry? (Maybe we can read it? MMmmmmmm.....)

fcai said...

That guy is unready to be president and apparently, unserious about what the job requires. He is in way over his head. Who knew?

Joe said...

The naivete of new politicians is amusing. I still want to see Obama's face when he gets his first high secret briefing--the kind even senators don't get (and the laundry bill afterward.) I'd probably shit my pants too if I heard it.

(I also suspect that when Obama gets the full brief on the people the CIA waterboarded, his first honest reaction will be "that's all they did?")

Quayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

Let's wait and see the new Pres. in action. Jumping to conclusions was always a knee jerk activity for me. Then I learned from watching two sons , acting just like me, that you are not to blame for what has not happened yet and you , likewise, can claim no credit for what you plan to do later. Obama has the smarts, I HOPE he uses them.

Quayle said...

What it must be like in the oval office.

Yes, I’m tempted to go along with Billings going along with your dad.

...

"What do you think Van Camp?"

Oh, I quite agree!

“With what?”

With everything!

("Good thinking.")

Dogwood said...

...has anybody heard from, seen or even heard of this guy since Blagojevich chatted with him last?

You mean other than the FBI and Fitzgerald? No.

jdeeripper said...

JAL said...Have Rahm set it up!

Speaking of Rahm ... has anybody heard from, seen or even heard of this guy since Blagojevich chatted with him last?


I think he and Biden have a timeshare place in Florida.

Paul Snively said...

As a professional software developer who's worked in security-sensitive areas, I'm frankly shocked that anyone considers it acceptable for POTUS to carry around, and use, an insecure communication device. For Christ's sake, people, one message to Michelle about how a tough cabinet meeting went would be a HUGE intelligence trove for people we don't event want getting HINTS about what's said and done in those meetings.

This profoundly unserious approach to the constraints and limitations of the presidency is one of the things that scares me most about the Obama administration, with its profound economic ignorance coming in a close second.

Zach said...

So not only is he objectively unready to be president, in the sense of having no relevant experience, he is subjectively unready to be president, in the sense of being emotionally unready to live the life of a president.

LonewackoDotCom said...

Someone should compare all the humble things BHO says to all the humble things that various other leaders have said.

The fact of the matter is the BHO is one of the most insulated politicians of modern times. The MSM lies, misleads, smears, and runs cover for him. Citizens have abrogated their responsibilities in turn, and refused to ask him real questions. The "Army of Davids" kept making the same stupid mistakes over and over and refused to do anything effective, when they weren't asleep on the couch.

And, even trying to get an indisputable fact to stick in Obama's Wikipedia talk page runs up against a long set of "rules", straight outta Russia, Soviet or otherwise. Check that out here in case anyone wants to help.

Issob Morocco said...

Not a tool, but a fool. But he is our fool now. Sleep well America!

LonewackoDotCom said...

Eli Blake: I call the "Citizen's Briefing Book" a scam here.

If you'd like the quick 'n' dirty on why it's a scam, see this previous scam that BHO was a beneficiary of.

A system that also used a "most popular" vote was linked to by MoveOn, and as a result BHO was asked a question that he'd already answered months before.

I swear, I need to make a video with a bunch of emigrees from totalitariant countries explaining just how many parallels there are between how BHO and his fans do things and how things operated in their old countries.

Glen said...

This actually tells me that Obama has NO idea of what is coming.

Quayle said...

"I want to be able to have voices, other than the people who are immediately working for me, be able to reach out and send me a message about what's happening in America."

What's happening in America is that you better use your congress to fix things or you and they are going to be tossed out on your asses.

Is that another voice?

former law student said...

1. If Obama never sends a message on the Blackberry, but merely uses it to collect non-confidential information, is it still risky?

2. I thought there was a secure government Blackberry-type network. Not so? Why not?

3. Blackberry routes all messages through a foreign country -- Canada -- so that's an insuperable problem.

Tibore said...

" Paul Snively said...
As a professional software developer who's worked in security-sensitive areas, I'm frankly shocked that anyone considers it acceptable for POTUS to carry around, and use, an insecure communication device."


As a professional support provider who's subspecialty is supporting mobility devices such as Blackberrys, I can definitively testify that Blackberrys are not insecure devices. When used in conjunction with a Blackberry Enterprise Server - something I'm certain the White House has a budget for - the security is easily on a par with any other enterprise email service, as well as any other secure service such as banking or financial websites, with encryption between the device, the enterprise redirector, and the email server itself, so message interception either via the airwaves or on the internet itself between the mail server and airwave redirector is very well protected. The security policies on a Blackberry automatically erase a password secured Blackberry after 10 attempts to guess the password are made. Furthermore, with an enterprise server, remote lockouts, password changes, and device "kills" are possible.

There is nothing "insecure" about a Blackberry.

Now, I've heard people complain that if a given individual does not enable a security password on their device, then data on it can be compromised. Yes, that's true, but to be blunt, that's end user behavior, not the security of the device itself. If you leave the keys in a car and leave it unlocked, it can be stolen. The car itself is not inherently insecure because of that. If such an issue is given as a complaint about the President carrying a Blackberry, then make a deal with him: He can use one only if he actively maintains a long, secure password on the device, uses it in conjunction with a "BES", and immediately reports any loss or misplacement so another password scramble or remote erase can be forced onto the device. In short, in return for the ability to use it, the President must promise to follow best security practice. If he does, then there are no more security issues with it than with a laptop or even paper documents carried in a briefcase.

Ophir said...

"I want to be able to have voices, other than the people who are immediately working for me, be able to reach out and send me a message about what's happening in America."

Why? Is he going on vacation somewhere?

Eli Blake said...

Lonewacko:

I don't know, it seems to me to be a pretty much up and hopping site. I just had a bit of a debate on a thread about Israel and Hamas with a bunch of people I don't agree with.

EnigmatiCore said...

I think a better idea would be for him to get the 1978 law repealed.

But, either way, I say, good for him.

reader_iam said...

Wow. This is a man who hasn't yet absorbed, much less accepted, that he got what he wished for.

Tibore said...

"former law student said...
1. If Obama never sends a message on the Blackberry, but merely uses it to collect non-confidential information, is it still risky?

2. I thought there was a secure government Blackberry-type network. Not so? Why not?

3. Blackberry routes all messages through a foreign country -- Canada -- so that's an insuperable problem."



1. It shouldn't be because of the ability to remotely lock out and, if need be, erase the device. And the tight encryption between the enterprise redirector server and the device should mitigate any concerns about message interception. Presuming, of course, that such an enterprise redirector server is used.

However, if the concern centers on the question of sensitive data being on the device period, then having others send him data is an even bigger concern than having him send data out. You might be able to talk him into only sending non-critical, non-sensitive messages, but it's much more difficult to control what comes in. That's more than one person's behavior to account for. As a practical matter, the most you can do is set up filters to prevent certain messages from coming in. But filters are never perfect.

2. I don't know if a seperate one exists already or not, but as a practical matter it's irrelevant. The current network already uses as advanced an encryption scheme as is currently available.

3. I myself wouldn't worry about that, but I can understand a security agency objecting. I would argue that the encryption event occurs locally - right at the enterprise server - so the fact that the data "pipe" to Research In Motion (RIM; the Blackberry company) goes through Canada should be irrelevant. But, given the foreign housing of the data pipe to the cellular companies, I can see and predict the Secret Service raising a fuss about it, but I can't imagine them caring that the encryption is excellent. They'd only care where the pipe goes.

To be frank, the data stream can't be decrypted in time to help anyone but future historians, and I mean way, way into the future; it would simply take too long to brute force it. The most that RIM or any other organization in Canada can do is interrupt the data flow. But unless there's something about decryption that I'm unaware of, they're not going to be able to read the data.

The real question is: What will Obama use this for? To be blunt, I don't see him using it to discuss state secrets, and he himself has indicated otherwise (that he's using it to "stay in touch" with people). If all he ever uses it for are personal emails not containing sensitive material, then none of the security issues should matter. Would it really compromise the government if he receives an email from a citizen complaining about taxes? The ultimate question is what sorts of communications Obama plans to send and recieve on this device. Deep secrets and sensitive issues should usually be dealt with directly with staff anyway. But even if something slips in, the data is very well secure anyway.

Personally, I don't see what the big fuss is about. Make part of the agreement to keep a Blackberry a restriction on what he says on it. Reassuring voters about a law or answering questions that he's normally answer in a letter, phone call, or TV interview would be allowable, but discussing intelligence information about terrorists would not. Common sense can easily be applied here.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"If I'm doing something stupid, somebody in Chicago can send me an email and say, 'Where's mine?'"

Fixed.

reader_iam said...

Tibore: Quick question--do you think POTUS ought to be able to erase e-mail or text messages, IM's & etc., "to's" and/or "from's"?

And how do you deal with the nightmares of "proved sent" via "didn't receive" and vice versa, exactly?

AJ Lynch said...

What is Obama a dickhead? Will he have the ability to surf the web on a White House computer?

If so, he can tell his "Chicago advisers" to set up a few blogs where they can leave him feedback messages.

Jeezus Christ for a smart guy he is pretty clueless. Since when does using a Blackberry make the user hyper-informed??

I know plenty who have one and it ain't no proof!

AJ Lynch said...

Lakers-Magic is 1 point game in 4th qtr. Could be preview of NBA Finals IMO.

What say you Mr. Obama? [I am sure he reads this blog on his blackberry]. Heck he could be Alpha Liberal!

Paul Zrimsek said...

Well, it's been less than five years since he was only a state legislator, and still was going to the supermarket late at night with a $5 bill his wife gave him and looking for the cheapest brand of milk so he could feed his kids and stay within the budget.

This would be the year before they bought the $1.65 million dollar house. How those pennies do add up!

BJM said...

The problem is not the device itself, the data on it or securing said data, it's that cell phones constantly ping towers as the phone moves. There are legal, inexpensive devices that pick up cell carrier signal. It's the perfect means for Obama to be tracked and targeted.

Another concern is the volume of traffic, just as beat reporters once watched the Pentagon for late night pizza orders; an increase in traffic (extended or repeated usage at odd hours) might indicate something was afoot other than Obama texting his BFF.

It's a bad idea and one the NSA and SS will curtail post haste.

Zach said...

There is nothing "insecure" about a Blackberry.

Now, I've heard people complain that if a given individual does not enable a security password on their device, then data on it can be compromised. Yes, that's true, but to be blunt, that's end user behavior, not the security of the device itself.


There are several responses to this. First, Obama now has much higher security requirements than any of the examples you give. You have to assume that foreign equivalents of the NSA will be devoting significant resources to breaking the security on the phone.

Second, a large fraction of what the NSA and its ilk does is traffic analysis. You can deduce a lot from the fact that Official A calls Official B, who calls Obama. Suppose Official A is Commander in Chief of the European Theater, and Official B is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On any particular day, the mere knowledge of the calling tree would give you a good guess at the content of the message that is being passed along. This is a major component of how the Terrorist Surveillance Network worked, if you'll recall.

Your point about end user behavior is true, but do we have assurance that Obama will show the kind of personal discipline that would be needed for someone with his security needs? He is, after all, seeking the convenience of his PDA. Will he be willing to use a long passphrase every time he wants to check his email, just to pick a random example?

Zach said...

I am also pessimistic about the prospects for taking away President Obama's Blackberry because he's been using it like a numbskull. Would you like to be the one to deliver that message? For that matter, if you have Obama's private message but not his official nagger, won't there be a corresponding desire to send him messages without yourself obeying security restrictions?

I'm very pessimistic that "best practices" are either good enough for Obama's needs or likely to be followed in the long run. You can't forget that he wants his PDA because he wants to use it in everyday life.

Tibore said...

"reader_iam said...
Tibore: Quick question--do you think POTUS ought to be able to erase e-mail or text messages, IM's & etc., "to's" and/or "from's"?
"

To address the second two: SMS text messages and IM's are transient in nature to begin with, so the issue isn't whether they should be erased, it's about whether people should go out of their way to record/archive them. For IM's, it is possible on a technical level if you control the IM server to begin with; IM's are by default normally not recorded, but if an enterprise messaging system - such as Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange - is used, then administrators can then implement Microsoft's Office Communicator Server, and have the President use that for instant messaging. Microsoft's "OCS" can be used with Exchange and definitely has a version available for the Blackberry (yes, I use it). And the local OCS instant messaging program can be set to store those IM's on the user's account, allowing archiving to happen in the same way email, calendar events, address book entries, etc. on Exchange get archived. So for that specific scenario, IM's can indeed be easily saved, but note the conditions I'm setting.

SMS (as far as I know) only ever stays on the device; texts were never meant to be anything other than transient, impermanent, and not available anywhere else but the specific device it was received on. I confess, I'm not familar with the service end of texting, so I'm not sure what backup/archiving capacities are readily available for that. But as far as I know, it's not something easily implementable. Since it goes through the cellular service, I don't know how you would record that other than just never erase it off the device, which is not practical. So the sum of this is that I simply don't know of any easy way to keep texts.

But, part of any technology question is policy, not mere technical ability. Should the President be allowed (permitted, whatever) to dump communications? Personally, I think it should be required that any such communications should be archived. But that's less a professional opinion than a personal one to aid history. Professionally, acts can be taken to archive IM's (can't answer for SMS), and by it's nature, email is already stored; it's just a matter or actually archiving those permanently. I'd vote for maintaining those for future posterity somehow.


And how do you deal with the nightmares of "proved sent" via "didn't receive" and vice versa, exactly?"


Good question. Off the top of my head, I'd not try to do that electronically. I'd have a team accept email on behalf of the President and screen them for him. That way, there could be additional accountabililty for what gets sent to the Blackberry, and also answers the problem of an individual getting overwhelmed by sheer volume. But, it also defeats Obama's goal of having a direct conduit to individuals outside the government.

I'd have to think about this for a while. I really don't know how to prevent that; anyone could send anything to an email address, and only the act of "whitelisting" would ensure that messages are only limited to senders and subject key words that are allowed. And that too defeats Obama's stated purpose.

AJ Lynch said...

What a tool!

Tibore said...

"Zach said...
There are several responses to this. First, Obama now has much higher security requirements than any of the examples you give. You have to assume that foreign equivalents of the NSA will be devoting significant resources to breaking the security on the phone."


The "bigger will break" answer is always used to argue against any decryption scheme, but it's a cop out. Encryption will never secure anything forever, but the key to it is that it keeps things from being decrypted in a timeframe usable by any given opponent. From the Wikipedia on Brute Force decryption of 128 bit AES, which is one of the two standards a Blackberry Enterprise service can use:

"The amount of time required to break a 128-bit key is also daunting. Each of the 2^128 (340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456) possibilities must be checked. A device that could check a billion billion keys (10^8) per second would still require about 10^13 years to exhaust the key space. This is a thousand times longer than the age of the universe, which is about 13,000,000,000 () years."

So yes, if the data stream is intercepted off the internet or airwaves, the encryption can indeed be broken. And future members of whatever species succeed homo sapiens will know what Obama once emailed a staff member or constituent many millenia previous, even after you take into account Moore's Law and exponentially increasing computer powers. But anyone within the timeframe of his Presidency will not be able to.

Furthermore, to intercept the data stream, they'd have to also defeat the authentication between the enterprise server and RIM, as well as the authentication security between RIM and all the cellular providers. That, too, is a burden to overcome.

Frankly, it's easier and cheaper to simply suborn a staff member. That's way more likely a compromise.

"Second, a large fraction of what the NSA and its ilk does is traffic analysis. You can deduce a lot from the fact that Official A calls Official B, who calls Obama. Suppose Official A is Commander in Chief of the European Theater, and Official B is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On any particular day, the mere knowledge of the calling tree would give you a good guess at the content of the message that is being passed along. This is a major component of how the Terrorist Surveillance Network worked, if you'll recall."

And as a practical matter, having the communication occur over a commodity service like Verizon, T-Mobile, or whoever makes that harder. It's one thing to know a radio-type signal's been sent from a known government building to a known military one, it's a whole other thing to separate out Obama's cell call, email, or whatever from all the other traffic on Verizon's, Sprint's, AT&T's, or whoever's network.

Besides, let's again consider that unless someone's being exceptionally lame-brained, we're not talking about Obama discussing the latest CIA briefing on his device. We're talking about him responding to emails from staff and constituents. Create a policy on what's acceptible to email Obama about for his staff, and have said staff filter his email from the rest of the world for him. Regardless of the level of encryption, make sure that there's nothing worthy of interception on the device to begin with. That's a hell of a lot simpler a security policy than anything else.

"Your point about end user behavior is true, but do we have assurance that Obama will show the kind of personal discipline that would be needed for someone with his security needs? He is, after all, seeking the convenience of his PDA. Will he be willing to use a long passphrase every time he wants to check his email, just to pick a random example?"

Members of his administration can discuss that. As a voter, I'm cynical about the maturity levels of some of his staff myself, but if I were an IT professional in the White House, it wouldn't be my job to determine whether my users were disciplined enough to use the technology or give voters assurances about user behavior. It would be my job to design the system and policies to prevent data compromise and mitigate whatever security failures may occur. And part of the policies end of it is to implement and enforce accountability of use. Any user either uses the service responsibly, or they lose access to it. If they don't like that, then they either find a different system to use, or find a different IT professional to administer it.

Besides, regardless of whether I like any given office holder and his staff or not, we're not talking about a bunch of middle schoolers here. We're talking about adults in the government. Certain levels of behavior are expected period, and one of them is data security. That applies whether the staff is composed of liberals or conservatives, and if they don't respect that, they shouldn't be in the White House to begin with.

Cedarford said...

Lexington Green Barack should come up with some similar process, probably electronic. The need is real. And Barack is right to know it. The BB is not, probably, the answer, though.

Horace had a good caution..anything electronic, anything done by wire or air with records stored in a server has - thanks mostly to ambitious prosecutors and compliant judges - not Dubya - been accorded far, far lower privacy protections down to none at all compared to past sanctuaries of privacy still protected.
A judge will say go search the house, turn it upside down, phone records, search the underwear drawers and get body fluid samples...do it all....and when asked if that includes going through all private correspondence delivered by Federal mail..the judge's jaw will drop and "No! no! not that! That is NOT allowed on this warrant!"

email and blackberry records were scrutinized in Plamegate even with no probable cause - employees were, even those not under suspicion, told they might have to respond if investigators "had questions" about things in those accounts. It was a free fishing expedition.

What Prosecutors out to get fame and glory, even higher office or an extra 250K signing bonus when they go out the revolving door have learned is - Executive Privilege protects the President , but not people he deals with outside his inner circle, definitely not "mere private citizens" - who then may be grilled and interrogated and forced to testify under oath to "get to the center of the cover-up" even if those people do have Executive privilege asserted.

And sometimes, it is with the pure and only intent of harming the President or his inner staff as enemies that must be discredited - or at least paralyzed and demoralized by the law being turned as a weapon on them. Not about crime. But using the law as a political attack vehicle to blunt or neutralize the leaders electoral mandate.

My advice would be for Obama to know what safe privacy havens he has, and operate within them as much as possible to keep safe from politically motivated lawyers attacks.

Electronic notice - Hey Claude, this is President Obama...I'm interested in your thoughts on my healthcare proposal (attached) and your feeling about drug crime sentences. Please send me your thoughts by private email. I and my staff no longer open or monitor responses on this email account.
PS - The White House gym sucks compared to the Senate one...and I mean Illinois's senate as well as the DC one.

Or Barack can take a leaf from Tony Soprano, and shield himself and private citizens from scrutiny under HIPAA. Just get his group of friends or common citizens to attend a "therapy group" under the official auspices of a psychologist or psychiatrist or doctor who is officially treating Obama and 35 others in "coping with back pain".
The FBI couldn't touch Tony and anyone talking to him in doctors offices.

Another ploy might be a "Faith in America" religious focused group of everyday citizens & the Prez and some of his staff...where they can safely discuss things and "confess" to various moral and physical faults in the open with no fear of being recorded...as a religious confessional was underway. No Truther lawyer would get past saying "minister-led confessional and healing group" before a judge shut the lawyer and his demands for 1 1/2 years of learning what they talked about in the group, possibly Obama's secret Kenyan Birth or the Biltburger Flouridation Plot....down completely.

cardeblu said...

BJM, that was my first thought, as well; it would be too easy to track his position.

And, yes, definitely a tool*.


(*via our own gracious host)

Revenant said...

Well, it's been less than five years since he was only a state legislator, and still was going to the supermarket late at night with a $5 bill his wife gave him and looking for the cheapest brand of milk so he could feed his kids and stay within the budget.

Yeah, it can be rough for a married couple with two kids to squeak by with only a six-figure combined salary. Now that it's seven figures, life's a lot easier. They can even afford to go out to eat occasionally.

Joe said...

Putting security of a blackberry aside, given the history of presidents getting in trouble because of electronic messages (and tape recorders) wouldn't it be smarter to do without in favor of face-to-face meetings?

AllenS said...

He'll use this as a way for the MSM to heap big praise on him. There'll be articles written about the messages to his daughters, his wife and others down on their luck. I've been noticing how the MSM is going wild over what he's been doing lately, which is nothing, but the visuals of him dancing up a flight of stairs, then a while later, hopping down the same stairs buttoning his jacket, seems to have the MSM believing that he's the next coming of Christ. We're going to find out shortly, why he voted present, when it was decision time.

traditionalguy said...

Our new President continues to show his touch of stubborness in seeing the world his way. He told us once that He IS the answer. That attitude protects his only talent from dilution: his habitual Charming self that causes people to fall at his feet and follow his every charming communication with no questions asked. That means the great leader awaits our obediance and humility. He in return will continue to give us what he promised to give: a relationship with HIM, the all powerful One. The rest of the World leaders may watch and wonder where this is all going, but I guarantee they are not being taken in by it themselves... they only want to know where and for what purpose the American Airforce and Marine Corps will be sent to next.

EDH said...

If Obama sets his Blackberry to vibrate and he puts it in his front pocket, does it go from being a "tool" to being a "toy"?

DaveW said...

He can use the thing he just needs to be smart about using it.

He shouldn't (and won't) use it for any official communications with DoD or anything similar. They have established secure methods for those communications.

What this is about is his personal musings with friends and daddy talk with his daughters. Bush gave up email with his daughters when he was elected, even though it was supposedly his primary means of staying in touch with them, because he didn't want his deeply personal conversations with them viewed publicly. That was a choice he made, he could have said the heck with it and just continued as before. The only problem is all those 'oh I'm sorry you flunked your final sweetheart' messages would be a permanent public record now.

If Obama wants to use his BB he can do that. Its just that every written word becomes public property under the presidential records act. I suspect he'll find another way. Its the habit of using the BB, the lack of context and its casual shoot from the hip availability that could embarrass him.

Sort of like blog comments.

TheCrankyProfessor said...

It's an old, old story.

Think of Haroun al Raschid and the tale that he would dress in common clothes and go down into the bazaar to hear what people really thought of him - something that isn't possible in a day when everyone knows faces from photographs.

Still, historians can tell you (well, I'm telling you) that we want to believe two things about our rulers/leaders:

1. that they want to know what we think
2. that if the great leader only KNEW what was going on, if the great leader wasn't surrounded by evil or incompetent advisers, he would DO something about our problems.

You can find one or both of those two themes in all of written stuff about leaders going back to Gilgamesh.

That's not to say the old tropes aren't true, but they are literary tropes way too familiar to take all that seriously. It's like politicians saying they don't feel worthy of their office; well, if you don't feel worthy, why did you run?

Original George said...

Cranky--

That applies especially in the case of charismatic leaders when people delude themselves into thinking that the great man cares about them.

How interesting that we just had a news story in which a 30-year veteran, a total expert, saved the day because of his vast experience and training, the US Airways pilot.

Now we've elected a man with little or no legislative experience, little or no negotiating experience, no business experience, no military experience, who has never faced a crisis in his life and who adores the adulation of the crowds.

Glad he has a toy to play with.

Maguro said...

This is a serious issue. Someone needs to convince him to drop his filthy canuck Blackberry for one of these

Phil said...

"I think we're going to be able to hang on to one of these. My working assumption, and this is not new, is that anything I write on an email could end up being on CNN," he said.

Or end up in Beijing...

Michael H said...

rahm - newz re rez? kids want poodle. i hate poodles. b frank want to shoot hoops. wud u let him in the locker rm? barry out.

Michael H said...

barry - ixnay on hoops with bfrank. bad photo op. buy a lab and get kid allergy meds. labs = good photo ops. fitz sez rez singing. sarkozys wife hot. check her pix online. rahm out.

Michael H said...

rahm - need to set up a lmtd access situation rm at WH. need a place to smoke. m-i-l is like a badger - has kids harping about not smoking. maybe use the area where wjc stashed the intern. rosa de lauro gives me the creeps. shes antiviagra. barry out

Michael H said...

barry - ok will put in smoke/situation room when bwlng alley replaced w/ basketball court. sorry but no on wearing the fedora at inaug. polling comes back as too 'fly'. no hat best like jfk. underarmor shirt to keep warm good plan. rahm out.

Michael H said...

rahm - damn. i like that hat. its beaver and warm. fdr wore a hat, why cant i? lincoln wore a hat. take nuther poll. did NYgov appt ckennedy yet? i promised her he wud. teddy driving me nutz. have a staffer load barry white on my ipod. barry out.

Michael H said...

barry - redid hat polling. cud wear a hat only if you carry a gun and a bible in parade. will appeal to rural voters. thnk abt it. Paterson wants a new dog b4 he'll appt ckennedy. no biggie, i'll get it done monday latest. youseen ckennedy lately? no meat on the bones. polls high with anorexics tho. that's agood thing in manhattn. i workd out name w/sec srvc. they have no prob calling yu 'shaft'. rahm out.

JohnMc said...

The bigger picture is being missed here. As I recall 'The Buck Stops Here' is still in vogue. So where does some underling demand that the BOSS not use something?

If Obama wants to foster change, some of the biggest changes start with the littlest of actions. Something like --

"I am going to use this thing. I intend to use this thing. What the Hell YOU going to do about it!?"

To the core this goes to the heart of the ever expanding Nannyism in America. "He's the President. We have to protect him!" Damn, he's a grown man. If he can't apply prudence in the use of a Blackberry then what does that say about his competence to even have the nuclear football next to him?

Seneca the Younger said...

Well, can somebody in Madison, Wisconsin reach out and tell you, Barack, don't be an idiot?

Sigh. Among all the things people have told Obama throughout his life, I suspect that one was needed often, and said almost never.

Seneca the Younger said...

To the core this goes to the heart of the ever expanding Nannyism in America. "He's the President. We have to protect him!" Damn, he's a grown man. If he can't apply prudence in the use of a Blackberry then what does that say about his competence to even have the nuclear football next to him?

And speaking of, John, don't be an idiot. You're not going to find a lot of people in NSA or CIA using Blackberries either. The issue is not that you can't trust them to use the Blackberry correctly, the issue is you can't trust the Blackberry. ANY PDA is vulnerable to traffic analysis and straight out SIGINT, which is to say you can, with appropriate equipment and knowledge, find stuff out just by knowing it's transmitting.

PatCA said...

Are we now going to see the adjective "unpopular" before every reference to Bush, even where it's not appropriate?

I wonder how they will ever get over their BDS.

Zach said...

From the Wikipedia on Brute Force decryption of 128 bit AES, which is one of the two standards a Blackberry Enterprise service can use:


I don't want to get into a debate about this, because neither of us are experts. But you're assuming a best case scenario, where the bad guys do nothing but sit in their desks and try to do the impossible through means which are proven to fail. This as opposed to, say, the government of Canada telling Blackberry that they have to turn in all of their logs related to number 555-OBAMA. (The US government has done this with overseas cables, in WWII for example. I'm sure it's a standard dodge at this point.) Any messages generated in this way have to be stored and can be subpoena'd, so the virtues and failures of 128 bit AES aren't really relevant.

If the people who are experts in this sort of thing didn't have a problem with it, I'd defer to their expertise. But in this article Obama is pushing back against (unspecified) people who are advising him not to use the device because of legal and security concerns.

The point as I see it is not the virtues or failures of the particular device, it's the lack of emotional willingness to embrace his new responsibilities -- to be a man whose security needs are higher than his Blackberry would provide.

Paul Snively said...

Ditto Zach: the issue isn't how good 128-bit AES is, or how good the TLS on the wire(less) between the Blackberry and the tower is. The issue is total end-to-end security, encompassing the entirety of the end-to-end technical and administrative infrastructure. As Tibore quite rightly points out, one big issue here is the potential to suborn a lower-level staffer who has some level of access.

But this still misses a point about the technology, as Zach also pointed out: we're not talking about the risks from talented amateur cryptographers or even large corporations anymore; we're talking about risks from foreign equivalents of the NSA, with armies of supercomputers and mathematics Ph.D.'s doing nothing but trying to come up with ways to exploit whatever reams of information they get their hands on. The top political and military command structure in the United States doesn't entrust its communication to POTS commercial communication systems because to them, 128-bit or 256-bit AES isn't good enough. This is the world of the one-time pad or, these days, at least provable security if not information theoretic security. There's been some encouraging work done on provably secure masking of AES against side-channel attacks, but it's quite unlikely that the results of this work have been implemented by RIM, and even if they had, it's quite unlikely that they would satisfy the NSA or Secret Service.

Incidentally, although it's becoming rather dated, The Codebreakers is an excellent history of cryptography from ancient times through—well—about 1996. Highly recommended.

Anyway, the upshot of all of this remains that allowing POTUS to use a standard, commercial, portable telecommunication device is an excruciatingly bad idea from a security/intelligence point of view, and Obama's apparent unwillingness to take that advice bodes ill for his administration.

TosaGuy said...

Most of you are overthinking this.

This is simply another piece of publicity pap designed to show tech-obsessed urbanites (i.e. his base) that he continues to be edgy and cool and can save the world on his crackberry. His BB is a prop that will never be used because the first poster nailed it.....anything on it is subject to a subpeona.

Tibore said...

"former law student said...
2. I thought there was a secure government Blackberry-type network. Not so? Why not?
"

Aha. Found it. Something does exist. It's not limited to being a wireless data network, but rather it's a secured version of the internet for secure government use. It's called SIPRNet. And as far as PDA's go, the "Sectéra Edge does indeed communicate with that network. So to answer your question, there is indeed a secured computing network, and a PDA device exists that can access it.

Tibore said...

"Zach said...
I don't want to get into a debate about this, because neither of us are experts. But you're assuming a best case scenario, where the bad guys do nothing but sit in their desks and try to do the impossible through means which are proven to fail. This as opposed to, say, the government of Canada telling Blackberry that they have to turn in all of their logs related to number 555-OBAMA. (The US government has done this with overseas cables, in WWII for example. I'm sure it's a standard dodge at this point.) Any messages generated in this way have to be stored and can be subpoena'd, so the virtues and failures of 128 bit AES aren't really relevant."


I don't assume anything of that nature. I discuss the issues of data interception because I know that there's nothing stored on RIMs end that contains any of the encrypted data, so there's nothing to subpoena or otherwise obtain beyond mundane traffic information. And that traffic information is next to useless because it does not reveal ultimate end points, it only acknowledges traffic between RIM, the Enterprise Server, and the wireless provider. You see, any messages generated on a Blackberry are stored on the device and the enterprise messaging server, NOT with any of RIM's infrastructure in Canada. RIM provides a data pipe to the various wireless providers, nothing more. Gaining their records related to the ESN/PIN/IMEI/MEID of Obama's blackberry may gain you some limited traffic information i.e. encrypted packets moved through SRP (Server Relay Protocol) Host at time "T" on date "dd/mm/yyyy" to wireless data network "W" (either AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, or whomever...), but it does not get you the encrypted data packets themselves, nor does it give you the end points of the emails sent or received. You'd still need to intercept the encrypted data itself to get that; you cannot get it from RIM. RIM cannot turn over what they do not keep, and they do not keep copies of the datastreams themselves. They are not providing a mail server, they're only providing a route for data to flow through. So even the traffic information you get is of limited value, since it all comes from and goes to the same sources.


Paul Snively said...
Ditto Zach: the issue isn't how good 128-bit AES is, or how good the TLS on the wire(less) between the Blackberry and the tower is. The issue is total end-to-end security, encompassing the entirety of the end-to-end technical and administrative infrastructure. As Tibore quite rightly points out, one big issue here is the potential to suborn a lower-level staffer who has some level of access.


That's exactly my point. The easier method of gaining information nowadays is not related to the electronic end, but rather via "social hacking". I'm frankly more worried about who the incoming administration hires as administrative assistants than whether they let Obama keep his Blackberry or not. People are the weak link.


"But this still misses a point about the technology, as Zach also pointed out: we're not talking about the risks from talented amateur cryptographers or even large corporations anymore; we're talking about risks from foreign equivalents of the NSA, with armies of supercomputers and mathematics Ph.D.'s doing nothing but trying to come up with ways to exploit whatever reams of information they get their hands on. The top political and military command structure in the United States doesn't entrust its communication to POTS commercial communication systems because to them, 128-bit or 256-bit AES isn't good enough...

...Anyway, the upshot of all of this remains that allowing POTUS to use a standard, commercial, portable telecommunication device is an excruciatingly bad idea from a security/intelligence point of view, and Obama's apparent unwillingness to take that advice bodes ill for his administration."


And:

Zach said...
"The point as I see it is not the virtues or failures of the particular device, it's the lack of emotional willingness to embrace his new responsibilities -- to be a man whose security needs are higher than his Blackberry would provide."


(*Sigh*)... Honestly, people, do we think that because he wants to keep a Blackberry, the CIA and DoD are going to start delivering the Presidential Daily Brief on it? Do we really think he's going to be emailing about Bin Laden or national security to intelligence and military advisors on it? Is that seriously the concern? In spite of the fact that other professionals in the CIA, military, etc. already deliver such information in ways other than email, such as through in-person briefings?

This is a personal device. I don't think we need to be enforcing single-use cypher pads for emails to his daughters telling them they need to do their homework, and I don't think we need to be worried about the merits of AES vs. 3DES and whether RIM's logs are obtainable or not for emails from reporters or constituents regarding tax policy. Like I said above, make him a deal: He can keep it for the purpose he continually states, but he cannot do sensitive or secure communications over it. Forbidding him from using it is not merely silly, it's stupid. To everyone advocating taking the device away: Apply common sense here please. Not all use of technology is for sensitive communications, but much of it is rather used for mundane emails. Why do you presume he doesn't already have other avenues of communication for secure information? Having a private one for staying "in touch" with people is a good idea, not a bad one. Not everything a President says is classified! Force him to respect the difference between personal communications and sensitive ones, like any other government official such as members of Congress (who, BTW, are not restricted from using Blackberrys), but don't take it away from him! Let him surf the net on the thing. Let him answer "common man" emails on the thing. Let him email his daughters, wife, and friends about mundane happenings on the thing. But stop pretending that its mere presence means that all of a sudden classified information is going to be transmitted through it regularly enough for foreign decryption efforts to gain traction.

Again, members of Congress aren't restricted from using such devices. Yet, many of them also have access to sensitive/classified information themselves. It's possible to have the technology present and still keep secrets away from it.

RebeccaH said...

Is Obama insane? His Blackberry would explode and set fire to his pocklet from the number of emails he'd get. And he'd find out in a hurry that not everybody in America worships him.

Kirby Olson said...

President James Garfield also wanted to stay in touch and had office hours where you could go in and chat him up.

That didn't last too long, or turn out real well.

fcai said...

Heh heh - someone said "crackberry" - that's funny, cuz u know, Bambi needs his crack.

Tiny Bunch said...

When I read this article, I wondered who in Chicago he had in mind to be texting him.