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White House: Obama to use security-enhanced BlackBerry

By John Cox on Thu, 01/22/09 - 3:57pm.

Posting here a slightly condensd version pf the story going live on the main Website....

In today’s just-concluded press briefing, the White House has confirmed that President Barack Obama will have the use of a security-enhanced BlackBerry, to correspond with a small group of personal friends and senior staff.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the wireless email communications will be secure, and that hackers will not be able to access GPS coordinates on the device to pinpoint its location.

When asked if other friends and members of Congress would be able to email the President, Gibbs declined to answer on security grounds. Gibbs confirmed that all wireless emails will be covered by the Presidential Records Act, and made public in due course under the Acts’s provisions.

We reported last night that political blogger Marc Ambinder asserted yesterday, without attribution, that Obama would receive a standard BlackBerry device outfitted with a government-supplied “super encryption” package, presumably from the National Security Agency, to protect emails. Bloggers today have speculated that Obama would be using the high-security Sectera Edge smartphone, a Windows Mobile device built by General Dynamics.

At the press conference, Gibbs did not go into detail about how the ObamaBerry would be deployed. The BlackBerry is essentially a handheld window and keyboard for mobile access to an existing mail system, such as Microsoft Exchange. Based on Gibbs’ comments, it would seem that the government is creating a very limited wireless email universe for Obama and a select group of correspondents.

To send and receive encrypted emails, both the President and his correspondents will need at least compatible encryption protocols, if they don’t have same software package.

It’s not clear whether this will be an email address that’s part of the White House system or some type of separate system protected by additional NSA defenses such as a custom firewall.

The issues around protecting presidential wireless email are complex, especially in light of the President’s oft-state intention of using his BlackBerry to keep in touch with long-time friends and confidants outside of his administration.

UPDATE: RIM declined to comment, deferring any and all comments to the White House.