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Obama boosted White House technology; Trump sees risks

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    President-elect Donald Trump’s skepticism of technology marks a sharp contrast from Obama, whom he’ll replace on Jan. 20.

WASHINGTON >> As Barack Obama began preparing to leave office, the first smartphone-toting U.S. president ordered his team to upgrade the White House’s aging technology for his successor. New computers were purchased and faster internet was installed.

Not included in the modernization plans? A courier service.

But that delivery method of a bygone era may be in for a comeback under Donald Trump. Despite his voracious use of Twitter, the president-elect appears to be leaning toward old tech to ensure the security of sensitive messages.

“It’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe,” Trump told reporters Saturday in response to questions about Russia’s alleged hacking of Democrats during the presidential election. Trump, who doesn’t email or surf the internet, said days earlier that computers “have complicated lives very greatly.”

Trump’s skepticism of some technology marks a sharp contrast from the president he’ll replace on Jan. 20. Obama, who was a youthful 47 years old when he took office, carries a specially outfitted Blackberry, emails with a small number of friends and aides, and has received some of his daily security briefings on an iPad. He celebrated technological innovations at an annual science fair, created the job of chief technology officer in the White House and viewed technology as key to making the sprawling federal government more efficient and responsive to the public.

But technology has also been a burden for Obama. Online sign-ups for his health care law were crippled by massive technical issues, resulting in one of the most embarrassing episodes of his presidency. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden stole classified information that he leaked to journalists, revealing the Obama administration’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records, as well as U.S. spying on some friendly foreign leaders.

Trump, 70, rarely uses a computer and sifts through stacks of newspapers, magazines and printed articles to read the news. He panned candidates’ reliance on data and technology in presidential campaigns, preferring to make decisions in part based on the reaction from audiences at his rallies. While Trump’s tweetstorms are already legendary, he utters some of his messages out loud and leaves the actual typing to aides.

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he expects Trump to continue using Twitter and other social media sites as president, casting it as an effective way to communicate with Americans.

“Absolutely, you’re going to see Twitter,” Spicer said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” ”I think it freaks the mainstream media out — that he has this following of 45-plus million people that follow him on social media” and he “can have a direct conversation” with them.

Trump has shown some interest in technology since winning the White House. Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel has been working with Trump’s transition team and could serve as an adviser to the administration. Trump met with several Silicon Valley executives last month, telling them his administration was “here to help you folks do well.”

As Trump heads into the White House, some of the biggest questions surrounding his relationship with technology will involve security. U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and a top aide to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the election, exposing the vulnerabilities of systems in Washington. Revelations that Clinton used a personal email and private internet server during her four years as Obama’s secretary of state highlighted the lax practices that exist in government.

As a candidate, Trump called for an immediate review of U.S. cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, though he has not detailed specific steps he plans to take to bolster cybersecurity and has not publicly accepted the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was behind the election year hacking. Nor has Trump outlined any changes in the way he expects the White House to use technology for day-to-day work.

Bruce Schneier, a technology security expert, said Trump was right to question the safeguards that exist for protecting his own communications as president.

“If the Russian spies want to get at his data, no computer is probably safe,” said Schneier, a fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. “Everything is vulnerable.”

Of course, the courier system Trump suggests is hardly foolproof, either. After the U.S. killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, administration officials said they had gleaned crucial information on his whereabouts by tracking the al-Qaida leader’s courier.

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  • “BO…ordered his team to upgrade the White House’s aging technology for his successor. New computers were purchased and faster internet was installed.”
    I would not trust those puters.
    PE Trump’s Transition Team should have had that responsibility..not BO’s gang.

    #MAGA

      • lol, it should be you in a panic mode. After all if the stock market falls to under 15000 over the next 2 years, with unemployment rising to over 10%, and the deficit soaring, well you won’t have Obama to blame. It will fall all on you republicans. So get to work and get the market up to 30000 unemployment down to under 4% and lets have a balanced budget for a change. Can do? Come on Republicans. Let see you do something! Get to work.

        • In order to “get to work” and move in the right direction, one must first have a baseline to establish where one is starting from. With that in mind, under the Obama reign 94% of the employment growth in the USA has been in part-time employment – not full-time employment. These alternative work arrangements often without benefits include temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, and independent contractors or freelancers.
          Also during Obama’s tenure, the number of people living in poverty has increased in 96 percent of congressional districts between 2000 and 2010-2014. The Obama economic recovery was no recovery at all for the bottom 90% of Americans.
          So yes, there is good reason to be in panic mode thanks to Obama’s lamentable legacy.

        • Boots:A manʻs worth is not measured by his bank account but, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold.” Proverbs 22

        • Boots, the other fellas have no faith that Trump could do better. That’s why they do the diversion from the numbers.

    • Sounds fishy why he wants to help his successor after all the disparaging remarks by him on Trump.

      Waste of money. Why does he not ask Trump before doing this which it appears will be undone by Trump. Trump would have said no need to upgrade and I will do what I believe is best.

      Obama took 5 months of vacation playing. I am pretty sure those on the Leeward side are glad he is not vacationing as president anymore. Could of saved a lot of tax payer money by going to camp David.

      By the way I would not trust those equipment that is being put in by someone who backs Clinton. Trump is smart enough to know what that could lead to.

  • A neighbor of mine raises pigeons. I’m going to suggest he contact the PE and offer his pigeons for courier service. Imagine the big bucks he could command from The Donald.

  • Trump actually brings up a valid point, that electronic communication is prone to hacking (though he won’t admit the Russians helped him). But courier delivery has at least as many vulnerabilities as electronic.

    Maybe the best system would be an unpredictable mix of electronic, courier, pigeons, smoke signals, etc. And of course, a return of the Navajo talkers!

    • @ MillionMonkeys
      “(though he won’t admit the Russians helped him).” Link please.

      Be like BO…have a subordinate relay his commands & deny any involvement if exposed and say…”I heard about it the same time as you from the CNN.”

  • “Of course, the courier system Trump suggests is hardly foolproof, either. After the U.S. killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, administration officials said they had gleaned crucial information on his whereabouts by tracking the al-Qaida leader’s courier.”

    ap: you lied, you lost, get over it. it’s not like trump will be in hiding. everyone will know where he is just as everyone knows where obama is. what will not be known is the information contained in the couriers’ messages.

    • I think the article was referring to the fact that couriers can be tracked (and kidnapped/have their packages taken from them). Depending on the surroundings and route, it could be easy to get classified information by intercepting the couriers. Or, the couriers could also do a “Snowden” and run off with the info.

  • Didn’t Waldo have a server in her basement on which was classified State Dept. information? And didn’t she delete thousands of e-mails after she was told not to? And didn’t the Russians among others hack into that server? And didn’t that happen with the tacit approval of Barry’s al-Hussein?

  • “U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee”

    If they are referring to the FBI/HS report a couple of days ago, if I remember correctly it did not say this.

    It said that Russia hacked the computers of “a political party”

    It also did not say they took emails and released them.
    It also did not say they concluded that there was an attempt to influence the elections

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