Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quinn heads for telephone trouble

It amazes me to learn when government officials use private resources to conduct official business. Are they that gullible?

The conspiracy-theory types are convinced the only reason for doing so is to get around requirements that they disclose their activity – after all, a privately-owned phone is nobody else’s business, even if it belongs to a government official.

THAT IS THE situation Gov. Pat Quinn is in these days. The Associated Press took it upon themselves to check out the telephone records for the cell phone assigned to Quinn, but paid for by the State of Illinois.

It turns out, the wire service found, that he hardly ever uses it. Some months, there are no minutes logged to it at all. Instead, the governor is one of those guys with a Blackberry, one which is his personal property and which he pays the bill for himself.

So he’s not about to disclose the records of how many calls he has received on it, although by his own admission he has conducted calls with people who were talking to him about official business.

And also by his own admission, he’s not one of those guys who sends tons of text messages. No e-mails sent out en masse to government employees, telling them to quit playing Solitaire on their office computers.

FOR HIM, A Blackberry is an alternative to a cellular telephone.

I’m almost inclined to believe him when he says there’s nothing particularly suspicious about his conduct. Quinn has been a “good government” type for so long that it would be unheard of for him to be caught up in some sort of unseemly activity.

Then again, nobody ever would have thought one-time Alderman Larry Bloom would ever do anything that would catch the attention of federal prosecutors.

As much as I’m inclined to give Quinn the benefit of the doubt that he’s using a Blackberry to cover up evidence of some tainted government deal, I’m surprised he’s not more aware of the need to keep that strict separation between a government phone and a personal phone.

I REALIZE THAT some people are going to get that personal number and are going to use it to try to contact him to talk government business (which is Quinn’s excuse, by the way. He can’t control who calls him, and isn’t going to turn someone away just because they should have called him on the other telephone line).

But this is going to be the wave of the political future, with it becoming increasingly common for people to have more than one telephone number to be reached at – and often more than one mobile phone line that they carry on them.

I guess we’re going to have to start becoming very aware of the concept of the work phone line and the personal phone line.

Political people who don’t pay attention to that distinction are the ones who are going to have the potential for trouble in their professional (and possibly personal) lives.

IT’S ALMOST LIKE we got a taste of this a few months ago from now-former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Remember when it came out that she was using a Yahoo! account designed for personal e-mail use to send messages related to official Alaska government business?

Trouble started when someone managed to hack their way into that e-mail account and started committing mischief at her political expense.

She learned the hard way that the security measures for those personal services aren’t anywhere near the level that they need to be for someone conducting government business.

AFTER ALL, PEOPLE doing business with a government expect that their personal information is not being disclosed to just anybody.

Yet that is what came about with Palin, as some of those messages she was sending out contained significant data that could be used against her or against Alaska government or against the companies that wanted to do business with that state.

I’m surprised Quinn would be willing to let his Blackberry become the focus of so much government business. Is he really that naïve about how it could put both himself and the state of Illinois at risk, particularly since it ought to be clear to everybody these days that calls made on cellular telephones are far from secure?

Some people may think the wire service is triggering a political scandal now by disclosing that the governor is not all that particularly about maintaining a separation between his personal and his work-related telephone calls.

BUT TO ME, the real scandal would be if someone were to hack their way into the governor’s calls and start using the details they overhear for their own personal benefit.

It would be rather pathetic if people wound up suffering just because Pat Quinn didn’t have enough sense to refuse to take a government-related call on his personal phone.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of the confusion that can arise from having to juggle about ( so many telephone lines.

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