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Obama Gets to Keep ‘Enhanced’ BlackBerry

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By Jeffry Bartash

RISMEDIA, January 26, 2009-(MCT)-Commander in Chief Barack Obama, a known BlackBerry addict, doesn’t have to surrender his smartphone after all.

The new president has worked out a deal with unspecified security personnel to keep his BlackBerry for limited professional and personal use, chief spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday. Obama will become the first president to use e-mail on a regular basis.

Past presidents have eschewed e-mail because of security concerns and U.S. laws that require such communications to be preserved as part of White House record keeping. E-mails of lower government officials have sometimes been subpoenaed by judges or Congress in legal disputes or politically sensitive issues.

Gibbs said Obama’s BlackBerry would be “enhanced” with additional security measures.

Obama plans to use his BlackBerry to communicate with “senior staff and a small group of personal friends. It’s a pretty small group of people,” Gibbs said in the first White House press briefing held by the new administration. He declined to say who would be allowed to e-mail the president.

Although e-mails sent by Obama for official government business would be part of the official White House record, Gibbs pointed out that U.S. law allows limited exemptions for strictly personal communications.

During his presidential campaign Obama relied heavily on his BlackBerry to communicate with staff and family members. “(H)e believes it’s a way of keeping in touch with folks, a way of doing it outside of getting stuck in a bubble,” Gibbs said.

The BlackBerry, a highly popular device used by executives and lawmakers, is made by Research In Motion Ltd.

© 2009, MarketWatch.com Inc.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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