Jan 30, 2009

World - US;Obama puts his beloved BlackBerry to work

WASHINGTON – He won the fight to keep it. Now, Barack Obama is putting his beloved BlackBerry to work. Upon returning to the White House on Thursday morning after a trip to his younger daughter's school for a class presentation, the president walked along the West Wing Colonnade toward the Oval Office while looking down at the electronic communicating device he held in both hands.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said last week that a compromise had been reached to allow the president to use the BlackBerry to keep in touch with senior staff and some personal friends. He did not say with whom the compromise had been struck.

Gibbs said Obama will limit its use, and that security has been enhanced to protect his communications.

Previous presidents chose not to use e-mail because it can be subpoenaed by Congress and the courts, and may be subject to public records laws.

Gibbs said the presumption from the White House counsel's office is that the e-mails will be subject to the Presidential Records Act, which requires the National Archives to preserve presidential records. But he also said some exemptions in the law allow for "strictly personal communications." He did not say how that classification would be determined, but made clear that the device could be used for both business and personal exchanges.

Obama's BlackBerry has been a constant companion, and he had noted publicly that he was negotiating to find a way to keep it despite security concerns and records-keeping issues.

Gibbs said that Obama believes using the device will help him escape the "bubble" that surrounds the president.

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