Why President Obama needs to keep his BlackBerry*


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After much fuss over the security of his beloved device, President Obama gets to keep a BlackBerry. The Atlantic reports that he will use one equipped with special encryption software to keep his communications private (well, the ones that aren’t required by law to be released publicly). The encryption also should prevent bad guys from using the cellular transmission to track his whereabouts.

In a blog post called ‘Obama Will Get His Blackberry,’ the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder said an agency that’s probably the National Security Agency added ‘a super-encryption package’ to Research in Motion’s standard BlackBerry, letting Obama use the device ‘for routine and personal messages’:


With few exceptions, government Blackberries aren’t designed for encryption that protects messages above the ‘SECRET’ status, so it’s not clear whether Obama is getting something new and special. The exception: the Sectera Edge from General Dynamics, which allows for TOP SECRET voice conversations.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed today that Obama would get to keep the device. ‘The president has a BlackBerry through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends in a way that use will be limited and the security is enhanced,’ Gibbs told reporters in Washington, D.C., according to Bloomberg News.

In an L.A. Times op-ed column on Inauguration Day, John D. Podesta, who was co-chairman of Obama’s transition team, argued that taking away Obama’s BlackBerry would hurt not only Obama; it would hurt the country by separating its president from people outside the Beltway:

I’ve been working with Barack Obama since before the election, and I know that without his virtual connection to old friends and trusted confidants beyond the bubble that seals off every president from the people who elected him, he’d be like a caged lion padding restlessly around the West Wing, wondering what’s happening on the other side of the iron bars that surround the People’s House.

So the president avoids having to use an unfamiliar Sectera Edge gadget and keeps his BlackBerry. Now when is he going to find time to read his e-mail?

-- Chris Gaither

* This post was updated at noon today with comments from White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.