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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 16:29 GMT
Bush ditches e-mail
By BBC News Online's Bernard Gabony
If you are reading this, then the chances are you use the fastest and most powerful way of sending the written word from one person to another - e-mail.
Spare a thought then for the most powerful man in the world, President George W Bush.
For it transpires that the leader of the United States is not allowed to use e-mail, and has had to revert to traditional post, or snail mail.
The New York Times has learned that, three days before his inauguration on 20 January of this year, Mr Bush sent an e-mail to a group of 42 "dear friends". He told them that he had been informed by his lawyers that any e-mails he sent as president could be "subject to public scrutiny".
According to the New York Times, Mr Bush told his friends: "Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace. This saddens me. I have enjoyed conversing with each of you."
"The president is a candid guy and I was candid with him," e-mail correspondent Patrick Oxford, a Houston lawyer, told the paper. "Sometimes old friends aren't as discreet as they should be."
Mr Bush, it emerges, was an enthusiastic user of e-mail, writing short messages, not bothering too much with punctuation, and signing himself off "gwb".
During his campaign against the Democrat presidential hopeful, Al Gore, Mr Bush made good use of e-mail.
When Mr Gore e-mailed Mr Bush calling for limits on campaign funds Mr Bush sent back a stinging reply highlighting allegations of improper fund-raising by Mr Gore.
And Mr Bush took the opportunity to mock Mr Gore for once saying he had invented the internet.
"Thank you for your e-mail. This internet of yours is a wonderful invention," Mr Bush wrote.
But Monica Lewinsky, with whom he shared a most high-profile extra-marital liaison, was not so discreet. Her e-mails were used in evidence against Mr Clinton at his impeachment hearing.
At least President Bush can reflect that he does not have to face the ever-rising flood of e-mails threatening to drown the computers of senators and congressmen on Capitol Hill.
A new study shows the number of e-mails being sent to Congress is rising by an amazing one million per month.
"Two years ago, the White House chiefs of staff did not think e-mail was a problem. A year later, it's the biggest problem they are facing," Rick Shapiro of the Congressional Management Foundation told the AP news agency.
Mr Shapiro says the typical e-mailer to a congressman will have to wait about three weeks to get a reply, and it may well be written on traditional paper.