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Obama Staffers Followed Palin's Email Lead On Inauguration Day

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  • by Jaysyn (203771) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `todhsals+nysyaj'> on Friday January 23, 2009 @09:10AM (#26573291) Homepage Journal

    Are they kicking & screaming about it being a private account or something? I mean it doesn't sound like they are hiding anything by publicly asking people to use it to contact them temporarily.

    • by Madball (1319269) on Friday January 23, 2009 @09:17AM (#26573349)
      Yes, you are. There's free email available, free! And people have actually used it. This is a momentous occasion.
      Seriously though, I found this to be perhaps the least interesting ./ item ever, and that's saying a lot. The only sort of interesting (barely) part is that the staffers have now had 4 email addresses in 4 months (barackobama.com, ptt.gov, gmail.com, who.eop.gov).
      • by liquidpele (663430) on Friday January 23, 2009 @09:57AM (#26573765) Journal

        Seriously though, I found this to be perhaps the least interesting ./ item ever

        You haven't been to the idle section, have you?

      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday January 23, 2009 @10:11AM (#26573903) Journal

        ______ - insert whichever politician you dislike, McCain, Palin, or Obama

        "It's not a great idea to run a government using web e-mail accounts. That's the word from experts, anyway, reacting to news that ______________ used web e-mail. The practice is dangerous, said experts, and can run counter to laws ensuring government is open and accountable -- By using non-governmental email systems, "Your information is out there available, beyond the official mechanisms there to protect it," said Amit Yoran, the nation's first cybersecurity chief. Yoran is now CEO of Netwitness Corp., a computer security firm for government and private entities.

        "_______'s use of the private account to discuss public business - a practice reportedly shared by top aides - also raised concerns from open-government advocates, who fear the practice could impede the spirit of laws designed to preserve government communications and documents. Recently, the office has fought to withhold some emails from public release, saying they were exempt from disclosure because state law protected certain categories of communication, such as those related to the "deliberative process."

        "Lawyer Meredith Fuchs of the Washington, D.C.-based National Security Archive has experience on this issue, having fought with the Bush White House over how it preserved emails, and why it allowed key personnel to use private email accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee. She believes ______'s email habits echo the worst practices of the Bush administration. "Maybe they did it because they thought the records wouldn't be disclosed," said Fuchs. "That raises issues possible destruction of evidence issues - if they expected litigation."

        - http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/Story?id=5830813&page=1 [go.com]

        • by crmarvin42 (652893) on Friday January 23, 2009 @11:38AM (#26574957)
          How is this funny? It's more informative. It's highlighting the doublestandard that exists on this site for Bush v. Obama, or more generally Republicans v. Democrats. As a Republican I was just as upset about the Bush administration trying to hide official communications behind RNC email addresses, as the rest of the people on this site.

          I'll grant that potentially the Obama team is only going to use these until they get white house addresses and then move all the emails they sent or received into their new accounts, which is the right thing to do. However, there is no guarantee that they would have if this wasn't being reported, or that they will even now.

          You can choose to believe that Obama is some how different from every other politician in washington if you so choose, but it is pure ignorance to assume that EVERYONE in his administration, from Cabinet members to secretary's for the secretary's secretary are just as noble.
          • by digitig (1056110) on Friday January 23, 2009 @12:22PM (#26575587)

            How is this funny? It's more informative. It's highlighting the doublestandard that exists on this site for Bush v. Obama, or more generally Republicans v. Democrats.

            Look at the article -- the Republicans use Yahoo!, the Democrats use Google. Of course /. comes out in favour of the Democrats when there's such a clear and significant issue dividing them!

            By the way, isn't a majority endorsing the Democrat position an accurate reflection of opinion in the USA as a whole? Maybe they should put it to a vote or something to find out.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by crmarvin42 (652893)

              By the way, isn't a majority endorsing the Democrat position an accurate reflection of opinion in the USA as a whole?

              There is a world of difference between being, or endorsing a Democrat, and willingly letting one side slide for doing the same thing you slam the opponents for.

              As I said in my post, I'm a Republican and I was furious with the Bush Administration for hiding official communications behind RNC email address. Regardless of you party affiliation, you should have certain lines that divide "ok" from "not ok" and they should apply equally to everyone. Obviously there is room for grey area and interpretation. t

          • by 1u3hr (530656) on Friday January 23, 2009 @12:34PM (#26575791)
            I'll grant that potentially the Obama team is only going to use these until they get white house addresses and then move all the emails they sent or received into their new accounts, which is the right thing to do. However, there is no guarantee that they would have if this wasn't being reported, or that they will even now.

            They ANNOUNCED the fucking addresses. OF COURSE they knew it would be reported.

            The Bush staff had government accounts and chose to use RNC ones specifically to avoid oversight. And they did it for YEARS.

            • by crmarvin42 (652893) on Friday January 23, 2009 @01:38PM (#26577077)

              The Bush staff had government accounts and chose to use RNC ones specifically to avoid oversight. And they did it for YEARS

              did you skip this line when reading my post?

              As a Republican I was just as upset about the Bush administration trying to hide official communications behind RNC email addresses, as the rest of the people on this site.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by 1u3hr (530656)
                The Bush staff had government accounts and chose to use RNC ones specifically to avoid oversight. And they did it for YEARS
                did you skip this line when reading my post?

                No. But you seemed to be saying that the day or two some Obama staff were using webmail, openly, because that had no official accounts yet, was comparable to the years that Bush staff covertly used non .gov accounts.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cream wobbly (1102689)

            I'll grant that potentially the Obama team is only going to use these until they get white house addresses and then move all the emails they sent or received into their new accounts, which is the right thing to do. However, there is no guarantee that they would have if this wasn't being reported, or that they will even now.

            And it's being reported why exactly? Possibly because they announced the fact?

            And with what motivation? In order to be somehow publicly accountable, maybe?

            But back to the summary: comparing this to Palin's gaffe is a red herring. Palin sought to conduct business with a private email address to avoid accountability. She also used a service which provides a method for the informed to take over any account -- even your pet's name is guessable. In fact, the only similarity is that the two services are in compet

          • by ahoehn (301327) <andrew@hoe.REDHAThn minus distro> on Friday January 23, 2009 @01:08PM (#26576529) Homepage

            I donno, seems like the real story is how backwards the whitehouse is technologically. A few quotes from the Washington Post story:

            "It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of his new digs.

            And:

            The team members, accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft software. Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the West Wing. The team was left struggling to put closed captions on online videos.

            And finally...

            Another White House official whose transition cellphone was disconnected left a message temporarily referring callers to his wife's phone.

            Several people tried to route their e-mails through personal accounts.

            But there were no missing letters from the computer keyboards, as Bush officials had complained of during their transition in 2001.

            And officials in the press office were prepared: In addition to having their own cellphones, they set up Gmail accounts, with approval from the White House counsel, so they could send information in more than one way.

            This doesn't seem to have much to do with trying to circumvent any sort of records keeping, but rather a way to function for a few days while a #&$%@# up system is worked out.

            Though I admit, I would be more suspicious of the last president doing this then the current one, but I suspect with the last guy we wouldn't have heard about for 3 years until a whistle blower leaked it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ktappe (747125)

          "Maybe they did it because they thought the records wouldn't be disclosed," said Fuchs. "That raises issues possible destruction of evidence issues - if they expected litigation."

          And how exactly does this apply to TEMPORARY e-mail addresses used for a day until they got their WhiteHouse accounts working? Hmmm?

    • by MollyB (162595) * on Friday January 23, 2009 @09:17AM (#26573351) Journal

      I agree, but I can see a scenario someday whereby someone files a Freedom of Information Act request to Google. Must they comply?

      • by Madball (1319269) on Friday January 23, 2009 @09:32AM (#26573517)

        I agree, but I can see a scenario someday whereby someone files a Freedom of Information Act request to Google. Must they comply?

        Firstly, something tells me that 99.999% of emails to/from staffers directed to this account on this particular was logistical/planning. Secondly, unlike the Bush/RNC, they aren't going to continue using the accounts in an effort to hide anything. Thirdly, Obama has already made it clear that this White House is going to be much more transparant. Finally, pretty sure FOIA would be served to the White House, not Google. His answer, should someone want the emails, "pfft. Take them."

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          >unlike the Bush/RNC, they aren't going to continue using the accounts in an effort to hide anything. Thirdly, Obama has already made it clear that this White House is going to be much more transparant.

          From: http://washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jan/23/obama-spokesmans-debut-marked-by-discord/

          "Although President Obama swept into office pledging transparency and a new air of openness, the press hammered spokesman Robert Gibbs for nearly an hour over a slate of perceived secretive slights that have piled up

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ngarrang (1023425)

          Thirdly, Obama has already made it clear that this White House is going to be much more transparant.

          Your faith in a politician's ability to follow through with things they say is...naive, at best.

          • by Enry (630) <{ten.agyaw} {ta} {yrne}> on Friday January 23, 2009 @11:01AM (#26574505) Journal

            You can always track [politifact.com] his campaign promises. As of right now, 7 are kept, 1 stalled, 14 in the works, and no status on 488. Not a bad start after 3 days.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              You can always track [politifact.com] his campaign promises. As of right now, 7 are kept, 1 stalled, 14 in the works, and no status on 488. Not a bad start after 3 days.

              Holy shit, did you take a look at the promise that was stalled? It reads, "During 2009 and 2010, existing businesses will receive a $3,000 refundable tax credit for each additional full-time employee hired."

              This is a bit of a conspiracy theory, but...companies like Microsoft and IBM who actually reported quarterly profits (not losses), but didn't meet expectations. You think they might be exaggerating their condition and going with mass layoffs in anticipation of that tax credit? They would get to hire i

        • by FireStormZ (1315639) on Friday January 23, 2009 @10:24AM (#26574057)

          "Thirdly, Obama has already made it clear that this White House is going to be much more transparant. Finally"

          And Bill Clinton Promised to be the 'most ethical administration in history', W promised to 'change the partisan tone', ..., ...

          Its frightening that you take a politician *especially one from the Chicago political machine* at his word..

          • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday January 23, 2009 @10:49AM (#26574371) Homepage

            Its frightening that you take a politician *especially one from the Chicago political machine* at his word..

            I wouldn't either, but in this case the Executive Orders he's been signing (particularly the one about FOIA requests) in the last couple of days indicate that he's prepared to back that one up with some action.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Of course you have to weigh that against the reports that all of the reporters that get to ask him questions at press conferences are pre-selected. There was also a report about limiting photographers and video cameras, but for the time being I am willing to grant the basis for the photography limitations as a special case considering the circumstances.
              I think the promise of transparency is one that needs to be watched very closely.
            • Actually, if you look at the Obama crowd, they (Jarret, Axelrod, etc.) are from the UofC/Hyde Park/Harold Washington Party crowd -- the folks that beat the Machine in Chicago, at least for a while.

              You could argue that since then, a new and bigger Machine has evolved, I suppose, but I don't think that would be accurate.

          • by pressman (182919) on Friday January 23, 2009 @10:52AM (#26574393) Homepage

            Slashdot.... where naivete meets rampant paranoia and cynicism.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Scrameustache (459504)

            "Thirdly, Obama has already made it clear that this White House is going to be much more transparant. Finally"

            And Bill Clinton Promised to be the 'most ethical administration in history', W promised to 'change the partisan tone', ..., ...

            Its frightening that you take a politician *especially one from the Chicago political machine* at his word..

            The difference was that Bush always did the exact opposite of what he said, but this Obama puts his presidential powers where his mouth is:

            PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDA [whitehouse.gov]

            January 21, 2009

            * Freedom of Information Act
            * Pay Freeze
            * Transparency and Open Government

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by FireStormZ (1315639)

              Its easy to do nice things quickly after all lets not forget , no matter how much the democrats want, that bush worked tightly with Ted Kennedy early in his admin to forge No Child Left Behind but FYI:

              * Freedom of Information Act - Nice change but all it does is add review *not* in and of itself release info. If he follows through and controversial material is released (about his admin) I will be impressed.

              * Pay Freeze - All hat no horse. He hires someone Jan 20th at a salary of 130,000 and implements a pay

  • by Hays (409837) on Friday January 23, 2009 @09:14AM (#26573319)

    This is clearly a transitional measure, and not a concerted effort to hide communications from mandated records keeping procedures as Bush and Palin are accused of.

    • Also, none of them is likely to be using the password "popcorn". They use the more secure p0pc0rn, instead.

    • by jcnnghm (538570)

      This is clearly a double standard applied because they are Democrats.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ivan256 (17499)

      Yeah, except what Palin did was idiocy, and not a concerted effort to hide communications from mandated records keeping. Hence the tit-for-tat.

      Our major political parties are run as if twelve year olds were in charge.

      (Incidentally, I'd also chalk this case up to idiocy as well. Obama's staff should have gone without e-mail for the day. But clearly he's decided that day-1 is so important that his VP shouldn't even be making jokes. I'd hate to see what Obama is going to look like in four years if he already h

  • whats with every single article on slashdot being tagged with "story" even this??

  • I think it takes 3 minutes to create an account, including exchange.

    How long does it take in the head office of the USA?

    • Re:How long? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by east coast (590680) on Friday January 23, 2009 @09:25AM (#26573447)
      The problem is that every administration brings in their own IT staff which, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't get their hands into anything until day 1.

      It's a pretty poor system, IMHO. Imagine a complete refresh of IT staff in an office. There would be chaos for weeks.
      • Re:How long? (Score:5, Informative)

        by sampas (256178) * on Friday January 23, 2009 @10:06AM (#26573861)
        IT staff at the White House are actually career staff (not political appointees) at the Executive Office of the President. Their infrastructure is run mostly by contractors with five-year contracts assigned by the previous administration. (You can find vacancies there on http://www.usajobs.com/ [usajobs.com] if you search "Executive Office of the President.") To get an email address there, you have to actually be employed at EOP (White House is a part of EOP) and fill out the requisite paperwork. Using non-government emails for official government business a violation of the Presidential Records Act. It's been illegal for quite some time, and Obama criticized Bush for doing it. There's also nothing to prevent me from using wh.whatever@gmail.com and sending fake orders out.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Dragonslicer (991472)

          There's also nothing to prevent me from using wh.whatever@gmail.com and sending fake orders out.

          This is something I'm not really clear on, even after reading the Washington Times piece. Is the staff really using the GMail accounts for all of their normal work-related communications, or were the accounts just created for the general public to send stuff to, which will then be forwarded to the regular accounts when they come online? The piece even explicitly says that official press releases will not be sent from any GMail accounts, which leads me to believe that the accounts are "receive-only".

      • GWB's IT Staff managed to "lose" massive amounts of email. These aren't the career professionals that serve one administration after the next.

        It looks like we may see a more technologically enlightened administration this time around. The changeover, while painful, at least should function as an effective purge of the incompetent and/or corrupt predecessors.
           

  • by rabalde (86868) on Friday January 23, 2009 @09:21AM (#26573399) Homepage

    Can anyone confirm that Mr. Azzup is a staffer? :o)

  • by Anonymusing (1450747) on Friday January 23, 2009 @10:11AM (#26573913)

    Palin staff: already had government e-mail accounts, but used Yahoo accounts to conduct business that they did not want to reveal to the public.

    Obama staff: losing one e-mail account before they gained their next one, so for a few hours they needed transitional addresses, and Gmail was free and easy to use.

    If Obama staff continue to use Gmail for government business, THEN we can equate these two situations. But not until then.

  • by buddyglass (925859) on Friday January 23, 2009 @10:15AM (#26573961)

    The problem with Palin's Yahoo use is that it was secret, for one, and second that the emails involved govt. business but weren't recorded anywhere. So, as long as the mails sent and received using Gmail are subsequently archived somewhere, there's no problem. Whether they will be? Who knows.

  • I argue, again, that Obama, as does any President, has the right to set up a communications infrastructure that is private and unrecordable. But, even if we put that issue aside, how far up on the priority list is this issue, versus this list.

    a) jobs
    b) budget deficit
    c) looming entitlements meltdown
    d) not one, but two wars
    e) aligning tax rates and health care with NATO allies
    f) trade imbalances with asia

    just to throw a couple out there.

    If we're going to be political, can we talk about something important?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by KermodeBear (738243)

      I agree - these Obama stories are pretty stupid. I'm proposing the tag 'obamagasm' for stories like this in the future.

  • they are using google docs for collaboration...

  • What the HELL. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday January 23, 2009 @11:54AM (#26575133) Homepage

    I love Gmail, but this is ridiculous. Google has no contract with the government, its terms of service void most liability (that's what "free" means).

    It also uses a non-reserved namespace. Right now, within a few minutes, I could sign up for wh.obamma, wh.barrak-obama, wh1te.house and any number of other unclaimed addresses and possibly pick up sensitive email sent to misspelled addresses.

    Regardless of whether all email is encrypted or signed (and remember, this is the government, half of which is probably using Outlook), this is a bad idea. Kudos for using Gmail, which is the best webmail service in existence, but this shouldn't have been necessary.

    Who the hell is running IT at the White House? Shouldn't they have set up .gov accounts for the entire administrative staff some time back in November? What was the hold-up?

  • by will_die (586523) on Friday January 23, 2009 @12:23PM (#26575591) Homepage
    Since this is another US centric article and from the reads most people don't understand who Palin was and how the USA is setup is here is basic intro.
    Palin is the governor of the STATE of Alaska who ran for a FEDERAL position. During the time she ran for the federal position she was still the state governor and did work as the state governor. She did state and political party work on a Yahoo account.
    If she had been elected as Vice-President or had been working for the White House work related documents on Yahoo would of been illegal but she was not and was doing state related work and so far no-one has pointed to an Alaskan law saying she could not do it.
    Not that this should be a shock, she had many claims put against her that were correct and permitted under Alaska law but members of the opposition political party figured they would use to attack her.

    Now in the USA federal and state laws are separate and while many federal laws must be followed by the states, the laws that the article are complaining that governor Palin did not follow do not deal with the states.
  • Breaking the Law (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dausha (546002) on Friday January 23, 2009 @01:31PM (#26576955) Homepage

    Okay, so we have staffers using non-government email to conduct government business? There is at least one law on the books about archiving WH emails for various purposes. That they are relying on external systems at all for that purpose seems like a clear violation. Whether Palin did it or not does not justify the new WH staff violating the law. "He committed murder, so I can commit murder, too."

    That they are using a rationalization means they know they are violating something. But now, they have established a shadow infrastructure that allows them to continue to carry on government business outside government channels. Nothing prevents them from continuing to use this shadow infrastructure after they have legitimate accounts.

    I would have thought that most of these accounts could have been created during the transition. It's not like the previous transition, where members of the outgoing administration ripped the letter 'W' off the keyboards and slipped porn into the paper in printers and copiers. If the prior administration here caused any significant delay, you can bet your bippy the press would have informed by the incoming administration.

    My point is 1) that the delay is probably a ruse, or at best a minor inconvenience and 2) the new administration has established a way to violate federal law.

    Maybe we should all set up gmail accounts with WH....

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