White House promises swift action on AT&T infospill

"Really angry" Obama is in "full kickass mode": official

[Just in case there's any doubt, this is a satire]

June 14, 2010 Washington, D.C. -- The White House today reacted with dizzying speed to last week’s information spill, triggered by an AT&T Web security lapse that exposed the private email addresses of over 114,000 iPad users, including celebrities, CEOs, and high-ranking military and government officials, among them White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.In a hurriedly-called press conference, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs read from a list of presidential talking points written on his palm, speaking so quickly that at times he stumbled over his words.“The magnitude of this information spill is almost unprecedented,” Gibbs said. “I’ve never seen the president so angry, so really visibly angry. I mean, he was angry. He was pounding the desk in the Oval Office and yelling “Plug the damn hole!” “This administration is in full kickass mode,” Gibbs said. The president was convening an emergency meeting of top information security experts, Gibbs added. Speaking to reporters later, President Obama said, “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick, right?” The FBI announced just days after the security leak was revealed that it is launching an investigation into the incident, which occurred when a group of security hackers discovered that they could fool AT&T’s website into returning the private email addresses of iPad 3G users. Gibbs was pushed aside from the podium by Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced the Department of Justice would be exploring a possible criminal investigation into the “parties responsible” for the breach. He said that federal information security laws gave him the power to pursue investigations into a “wide range of possible violations.” In response to a reporter’s question, Holder acknowledged he had not yet read any of those laws. 

AT&T in a brief statement announced that it was notified of the security weakness on Monday June 7 and had solved the issue by the next day. Not quite soon enough, apparently.

Later in the day, during a photo opportunity with Vice President Joe Biden on the White House putting green, a visibly angry President Obama unclenched his jaw long enough to tell reporters, "If our laws were broken, leading to this death of privacy and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Internet." A grim-looking Biden said, “This is a big f---ing deal.” Obama said AT&T’s failure to prevent the initial gush of e-mail addresses was "as enraging as it is heartbreaking." Following the putting practice, the President planned to visit several sites where iPad users’ privacy was violated, including the White House, the Pentagon, several palatial offices, penthouses or private homes of media CEOs and entertainment celebrities in New York City, and Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, to talk with iPad 3G victim Col. William G. Eldridge, who commands the 28th Operations Group, the largest B-1 bomber group in the Air Force. Gibbs was asked if the President would meet with AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson. “The president is using his highly secure mobile email device to email Mr. Stephenson even as we speak,” Gibbs said. There was an initial glitch, Gibbs acknowledged, when after the president's second angry email, AT&T’s Executive Response Team phoned the White House and warned that further emails to the company's chief executive would result in a cease-and-desist letter to the country's chief executive.  AT&T later apologized. The reaction has hardened the attitudes of some White House officials toward AT&T. One, with the initials RE, who spoke on condition of anonymity, threatened to “push them out” if the company did not perform. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who is likely to lead a congressional committee investigating the disaster, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he had “no confidence whatsoever in AT&T.” The congressman continued, “So I don’t think that people should really believe what AT&T is saying in terms of the likelihood of anything that they’re doing is going to turn out as they’re predicting.” Roland Emmerich, director of the hit 1996 movie “Independence Day,” said that AT&T had turned down his offer to help combat the massive infospill. In the movie, Jeff Goldblum’s character uses an Apple Powerbook 5300 laptop to inject a virus into the alien mothership’s computer system and save the Earth.  “Over the last few days I've watched, as we all have, with growing horror and heartache, watching what's happening to iPad users in the Internet and thinking those morons don't know what they're doing,” Emmerich said. The disaster has prompted calls for reregulation of mobile carriers, to reverse the laissez-faire policies of the previous administration. The infospill is “absolutely 1,000 percent Bush-Cheney’s fault,” declared Arianna Huffington, founder of the liberal political blog, the Huffington Post. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is considering a set of recommendations for President Obama, including an immediate six-month moratorium on installation of new wireless base stations, and “new rules requiring wireless service providers having in place a comprehensive, systems-based approach to information safety and management.” In addition, the Blowup Online Preventer (BOP) mechanism, used by all mobile operators to prevent infospills, must be re-inspected and independently re-certified. Update: Obama was examined by doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital for potential Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, referred to by Washington insiders as “First Order Oval Office Clench” or FOOOC. A White House spokesman said the medical bill would be sent to either AT&T or Apple.John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for “Network World.”: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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