Obama Fighting For His Blackberry… But May Be Losing

from the the-lawyers-win!-the-lawyers-win! dept

Right after the election, there was plenty of talk about how President-elect Obama would need to give up email just as President Bush did when he took office eight years ago. As plenty of people pointed out at the time, this seems like a pretty silly concept. There should be at least some way to allow Obama to continue to use this important and useful form of communication — if only to allow him some access “outside the bubble” of DC. And, indeed, Obama made it clear that he would fight to figure out some way to keep emailing — especially via his precious Blackberry. However, the latest news isn’t looking good — as Obama is noting that he still has been unable to convince both the security folks and the lawyers that he should be allowed to keep the Blackberry. Apparently, there are times when it’s not so good to be the king.

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Comments on “Obama Fighting For His Blackberry… But May Be Losing”

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ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually it’s pretty accurate.

The hole in your assertion becomes clear when you realize that you’re talking about secret service agents, not the people that they’re protecting.

It wouldn’t take long to create a device that could hunt someone through their Blackberry PIN or the like, and merely knowing that someone is within 75 yards is more info than you might want known about a world leader at a specific time, especially in a zone that’s a lot harder to secure than, say, the Whitehouse.

nathan smack (user link) says:

Re: POTUS needs to be connected.

This is a non issue being blown out of proportion by the press and other outlets. The pres. can and does communicate as often and from any outlet he so chooses. Caveat… it must be done with the strictest adherance to national security and be subject to the laws that dictate public access to government documents. This President will undoubtedly set new precident in public communication and has already shown his desire for transparency in his inagural fundraising. Ultimatley he will have to decide that following the security mandates are in the best interest of the Country. I appoligize for any typos… I typed this from my palm centro which is decidedly better than any bb product save the storm 🙂

usmcdvldg says:


E-mail is the most unsecured form of communication on earth minus a loudspeaker; And a blackberry is basically a locator beacon in a fancy shell.

What he possibly thinks he’s going to write to someone that anyone on earth will eventually read, I have no idea.

And how he thinks he will be able to cope with any tech savy sicko being able to know his location to within 1/2 mile, idk.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Silly?

E-mail is the most unsecured form of communication on earth minus a loudspeaker

Indeed. But as long as you recognize that and communicate accordingly, what’s the problem?

And a blackberry is basically a locator beacon in a fancy shell.

That’s a totally bogus reason. If it were true, no one in the President’s company could bring a mobile phone with them. Hell, if it’s really a problem, just keep rotating phones. This is pretty straightforward.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Silly?

Actually, no. You can get two-factor add-ons for completely encrypted email over a blackberry http://na.blackberry.com/eng/ataglance/security/products/smartcardreader/

It’s the same technology that the DOD uses for authenticating people when they login to secure communications systems.

I think that a bigger worry would be that Blackberry’s servers are controlled by a foreign power (Canada) and there is a legal requirement to track and catalog all presidential communications.

drtaxsacto (profile) says:

The Presidential Blackberry

Absolutely, the President should be able to have a Blackberry (or even better an iPhone). The technology is readily available by routing that all those messages can be archived to make the lawyers happy – but if we learned anything from the last couple of presidents – they should have opportunities to be outside the bubble . The security folks want the president inside the bubble and that causes problems for our democracy.

usmcdvldg says:

Re: The Presidential Blackberry

No a president should become the president already well versed in the world, not gain this incite after being elected.

And two, the president should not be carrying any device that continuously transmits an easily detectable radio signal, especially if that signal is transmitting easily decipherable communications!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Presidential Blackberry

“No a president should become the president already well versed in the world, not gain this incite after being elected.”

The world changes significantly over a presidential term, especially in these turbulent, technology-driven times. Do we really want the president’s only view of the world from this day forward to be the one filtered throuhg special advisors?

“And two, the president should not be carrying any device that continuously transmits an easily detectable radio signal, especially if that signal is transmitting easily decipherable communications!”

Anyone using such a device for matters of national security would be a fool, and I doubt Obama is such a person. Without classified data on the device, what’s the danger? If you’re thinking of triangulating his position, I’m sure the device would be disabled when he’s in any kind of danger or where the device would pose some other physical risk.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The Presidential Blackberry

Just put the phone in a mylar bag when you are not using or had it to an aide.

It’s not like people around him don’t have these devices, or people he’s meeting. How many times have you seen other world leaders on cell phones….

Fundamentally, this is misplaced paranoia and a question of institutional control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Email is displacing more and more communications these days, and to think it’s useless and a message needs to be telegraphed to i.e. Rahm before it gets to Barack is inefficient to say the least. Maybe the Google boys can come up with an Android-based push-email system that is more secure and has a daily-randomized homing beacon. Surely they could do it in a few months to replace the Blackberry.

Veronica Eaton says:

more money for consumers

Dear Mr. President:

A friend of mine suggested to me 2 major problems in this country dealing with finances – the credit bureau and the irs, without these 2 thorns in the consumers pocketbook, the american people could save and look forward to the future instead of worrying about social security benefits. FICA score prevents the consumers from getting credit, and the irs tax the consumers thousands and millions of dollars every year. The consumer has to paY the tax person from $100 and up to file their taxes and in some cases the consumer HAVE TO PAY IRS.

Thank You

Veronica Eaton

Peter Griffin says:

Re: more money for consumers

IRS is working on that.

What really grinds my gears is that the bailout money isn’t being used to lend to businesses or consumers. This is key in maintaining open stores and purchasing. Instead, TARP seems to be used to maintain day-to-day business for the financial institutions and also fund buyouts of banks. In the process, it seems to be triaging THEIR OWN risk down to their customers, and in the process, setting their customers up for times of financial hardship.

However, things get even more cumbersome when people start to learn that in the past 7 years, many companies have started using consumer credit screening as part of hiring and even internal promotion process for candidates. Passed up for a promotion? Maybe your too high of a credit risk. What a scary thought! But when the dust storm settles, and the economy is fixed (by whatever means that happens) I have a feeling many people will be very angry at these types of practices once they realize this is happening.

But yes, I agree, it’s best to safeguard your FICO score, guard it with your life, don’t buy luxuries, and save the best you can, (which is counter-direction of a debtor society). Who knows, you may be in a better position for that promotion than you thought!

But there’s going to be a lot of changes and perhaps the definition of an EOE needs to expand to a company that doesn’t need to determine if you need a promotion based on your (private life) FICO score.

AdamLee says:

Re: Re:

On your same sarcastic note… you don’t think there is someone out there who can hack “whatever” signal he may be using. No matter how high tech or top secret, if he is using “emails” and making phone calls, he is broadcasting a wireless signal of some type. If theres a signal, you can be traced. Come on? Think about it…

Mike the Sike says:

lots of Ignoramuses here.....

its NOT that the device can be tracked…they can mod a Blackberry for him that would be completely annonomyus and all GPS type of tracking can be disabled on it.

It’s that email is the most unsecure form of communication out there (as an earlier poster noted). It is sent in the clear, no encryption. Email travels a lot of places before arriving at its destination. So anyone at any stop can technically see it. I am in IT an handle many exchange servers. You’d be suprised the stuff I see that getws trapped in filters, or stuck in SMTP servers, etc. People are so stupid when it comes to this and they also belileve that once they delete email its gone. Uh no….its all archived and can be retrived….

Second reason is the most obvious….its IN WRITING. Unlike a phone conversation (unless its recorded, everything said is memorialized and part of legal discovery.

So I am not a fan of NObama, I emphathise with him because I am a Crackberry user too, but this just exemplpifies his inexperience alomost as bad as picking Panetta, a person with NO intelligence record, as CIA chief. Just unbelievable and dangerous in these times.

Anonymous Coward says:

wow: 34 comments and no one’s mentioned the military? more-than-less secure forms of communication exist. i can’t believe for a minute that the usa can surprise its enemies (or those it makes enemies) with military strikes without coordinating its attacks and communicating the plans to relevant stakeholders. work it out and let the man run the world already!

Phillip Vector (user link) says:

His code

Just curious here.. Wouldn’t someone need to know what the “pin code” is for that blackberry before they could track it? I don’t see someone even knowing that data except perhaps if someone checked and confirmed that it was correct.

So… Let him have it. If the terrorists use it to attack, they can’t know what signal to track.. I mean, how could they know? I’m not trying to be snarky, but I’m curious how a terrorist can learn the presidents personal “pin”?

Paul Stout (profile) says:

Obama Fighting For His Blackberry... But May Be Losing

I don’t know why he should be losing, or even why the subject is considered important enough to be discussed in the news.

Granted, the security folks, Secret Service etc., will have their objections concerning his security, but when it comes right down to it, all they can do is advise. I don’t really see how they can force him to give it up. When it comes down to the final decision it’s his choice to make, not theirs, on how much he follows personal security routines.

Myself, in his shoes, I’d just tell them to go to hell and I’ll use the phone. The Secret Service folks wouldn’t like it, but ultimately it’s still his decision to make, not theirs.

If I remember correctly, way back at the start of Clinton’s first term there was a bit of a brouhaha over security on his daily morning runs. Clinton finally gave in enough to allow one security agent to accompany him on those morning runs. The Secret Security people distinctly didn’t like it, but all they could do was advise, not command. The final decision wasn’t for the Secret Service to make.

So, if Obama wants to use his Blackberry, in spite of any increase of personal security it might cause, it’s his choice and more power to him. It’s his life and his decision on just how much of a security blanket that will be around him. You don’t give that up just because you became President.

Personally, I think it’s ridiculous that there is even all this much discussion about the subject. It tell’s me that the newspapers/TV new/reporters either have too much time on their hands or it’s a slow news month and they aren’t capable of thinking of anything else important enough to comment about.

No wonder I quit reading newspapers for my news! I get it faster and, more importantly, with considerably more accuracy via the Internet.

aep528 says:

Classified information and cell phones

I didn’t read all of the posts, but there is another reason that people are probably not aware of: Cell phones are not allowed in areas where classified information is discussed. Period. No exceptions. If you’re caught with an active cell phone you lose your clearance. Period. Why should the same rules not apply to the president?

mary-chicago says:


i believe he should be allowed to still use it to browse the internet even if he can not e-mail. This is how he gets to stay in touch with the real world. It is what keeps his attention focused on whats happening in the lives of every normal american. Thats what I want from our President. I want to know that he hasn’t lost sight of why he was elected.

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