Obama might have to dump his BlackBerry for government approved Windows Mobile device

Apple Store“Bill Clinton sent only two e-mail messages as president and has yet to pick up the habit. George W. Bush ceased using e-mail in January 2001 but has said he’s looking forward to e-mailing ‘my buddies’ after leaving Washington, D.C.,” Declan McCullagh reports for CNET. “Barack Obama, though, is a serious e-mail addict. ‘I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry,’ he said in a recent interview with CNBC. ‘They’re going to pry it out of my hands.'”

“One reason to curb presidential BlackBerrying is the possibility of eavesdropping by hackers and other digital snoops. While Research In Motion offers encryption, the U.S. government has stricter requirements for communications security,” McCullagh reports.

“Fortunately for an enthusiastic e-mailer-in-chief, some handheld devices have been officially blessed as secure enough to handle even classified documents, e-mail, and Web browsing,” McCullagh reports. “One is General Dynamics’ Sectera Edge, a combination phone-PDA that’s been certified by the National Security Agency as being acceptable for Top Secret voice communications and Secret e-mail and Web sites.”

McCullagh reports, “The price is $3,350 with a two-year warranty, a princely sum that’s reflected in the Pentagon-worthy price tags for accessories: a simple adapter for a lighter plug costs $100. (Never again should you complain about how much your civilian analogue costs.)”

MacDailyNews Take: Actually, Mr. McCullagh, we will continue to complain about our “civilian analogue costs,” thank you very much, but not as loudly we do about the government pissing away taxpayers’ money.

McCullagh continues, “The Sectera runs a mobile version of Microsoft Windows, including versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Windows Media Player. The NSA claims that the installed versions of Internet Explorer, WordPad, and Windows Messenger are good enough for data that’s classified at a level of Secret. Presumably the federal spooks have found a way to protect IE from the numerous security flaws that continue to plague the Internet’s most popular browser.”

MacDailyNews Take: We wouldn’t presume a damn thing except that if you follow the money, you’ll probably find out why the company that’s stolen the most is the one that just so happens makes the software for the government’s fugly mobiles. For reference:

• US Department of Homeland Security’s border screening system was crashed by Windows Zotob worm – November 03, 2006
US Department of Homeland Security: patch Microsoft Windows now or risk complete system compromise – August 10, 2006
CCIA wants U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security to reconsider buying ‘insecure Microsoft software’ – August 29, 2003
U.S. Department of Homeland Security says Windows vulnerable to attack – August 01, 2003
Department of Homeland Security chose Microsoft due to time and money limitations – July 21, 2003
U.S. Department of Homeland Security awards enterprise agreement to Microsoft – July 15, 2003

So, follow the money to figure out how one department can recommend against using Windows due to insecurity, then buy Windows PCs, then six weeks later again warn against using Windows due to insecurity only to get infected and crash systems designed to protect the very citizens who paid for the piece of crap Windows PCs in the first place.

Blago’s not the exception; he’s the rule. And the government at the highest levels is incompetent because the truly smart people have real jobs, they’re not damaged idiots who crave the spotlight and/or feel the compulsion to make rules for everyone in lame attempts to self-validate. Yes, there are good, smart people in government jobs; too bad they’re too smart to run for higher office. In government, the higher you go, the more incompetent they seem to be. Truly intelligent people don’t run for major political office and put themselves and their families through complete hell at the hands of people who are even more damaged than themselves (national media types) in order to land what are – even at the highest levels – mediocre-paying (relatively speaking) government jobs.

McCullagh continues, “Even though President Bush enjoys the same access to NSA-certified handhelds, he has never resumed his daily e-mail habit from the days went he went by the humble moniker of G94B@aol.com. At the time, Karen Hughes, one of Bush’s closest aides, said that the president chose to abandon e-mail because of public records laws. That includes the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, and the Presidential Records Act of 1978.”

“Federal law does explicitly exempt from disclosure any “personal records” that do not relate to the president’s official function. Those include electronic records that are “of a purely private or non-public character” and don’t relate to official duties; the law lists diaries, journals, notes, and presidential campaign materials as examples. Similarly, FOIA prevents files from being released if the disclosure would significantly jeopardize ‘personal privacy,'” McCullagh reports. “In other words, Obama could choose to keep e-mailing judiciously, and trust his lawyers and the law to fend off overly nosy journalists and historians.”

McCullagh reports, “If nothing else works, Obama can always turn to Bush for some tips. Not his immediate predecessor, but former President George H.W. Bush, a late-in-life convert to the joys of e-mail. Bush the Elder has been quoted as saying: ‘I’m what you might call a black belt wireless e-mailer.'”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Rob” for the heads up.]


  1. Whoa! Take a step back MDN…not everybody in government is a crook or a narcissist…granted, Reagan and Bush might have been “damaged idi…uh oh… ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”big surprise” style=”border:0;” />

  2. “Fortunately for an enthusiastic e-mailer-in-chief, some handheld devices have been officially blessed as secure enough …”

    I’m not surprised. I’d have expected them to have policies about such things.

    I’d also guess that if the incoming president is advised by his IT people to use “this” rather than “that”, he’d do so and not make a fuss based on personal preferences.

    Of course, if that’s what pans out it’s a shame for RIM that he was loose-tongued enough to blurt out his comment about their device – “I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry” – since he’d then be turning round later and saying, “I’ve been advised not to use it,” if asked. Embarrassing for RIM if that happens.

    You’d think a politician would be a little more grown-up than to boast about which toys he likes in public … but then again perhaps not.

  3. He’s going to be the President. He can then issue an Executive Order having Microsoft disbanded – oh wait, I mean he can order the Executive Branch do do whatever he wants. including supporting his crap berry. Maybe he can even order and iPhone!

    Please forgive my momentary abuse of power!

  4. My friend gave me his WinMo phone. Man this thing blows. Of course he upgraded to an iPhone, and now his mobile life is so much more fun and enjoyable. If they make Obama use a WinMo he’ll spend too much his and our time just navigating the mess.

  5. $3,350 for a Windows Mobile device–Yikes!!! Wait, that’s our tax money paying for it–Double Yikes!!!

    I thought Dell had a racket going by charging to downgrade your new computer from Vista to XP. But $3,350 to downgrade from a Blackberry to a Windows Mobile POS. Only in America.

    I wonder if Obama will have to switch from using a computer to a pencil, paper, and abacus once he is in the Oval Office. No wonder the USA is losing the high-tech race to Asian countries. Even our leaders are not allowed to use the best equipment.

  6. Well, it’s easy to explain how this happens, anyway.

    Simply put, security is a particularly messed-up branch of IT (more so than email which is saying something). The major problem is that security decisions are made through a traditional process of identifying the requirements then looking for a product that meets those requirements. This sounds good except that the requirements are always incomplete.

    In this particular example, the requirements probably center around the implementation of various types of encryption and various security features. General Dynamics presumably licensed Windows Mobile and performed (expensive) custom development to implement those security features. Since the market is relatively small they charge a high price to recover the costs of that development. (Apple does not license the iPhone software the way Microsoft does so an iPhone could not have been used for this sort of implementation.)

    The problem with the “security feature” approach is that it does not really translate to real-world security, and a list of features does not mean that those features are implemented correctly with no bugs. Obviously the requirements ideally would specify that the security system was somewhat bug-free, but unfortunately there is not a great “security metric” that can quantify the bugginess of one security implementation versus another. In practice people rely on a product’s overall reputation which can be misleading for various reasons.

  7. People so sensitive in the beltway. The land of smart people. Look. Big city beltway people bash us middle folk all the time.

    Yes, I understand that if it wasn’t for the smart people in the beltway I wouldn’t be able to live my own life. We are just not that smart.

    But if you beltway people can look down upon us, well, we can make fun of you too. Two way street. The sad part is, we are having fun doing it. The beltway people actually believe it.

  8. WOW!!!! MDN sure seems to have its panties in a bunch! Who pissed on MDN’s Cheerios?

    Seriously, that’s one expensive phone, particularly one that runs WinMobil.

    I applaud President-elect Obama for being an information junkie. It shows that he has a strong curiosity for information in order to form his own opinions; instead of solely relying on what’s been filtered for him to read.

    I think the interesting study here is that this is a presidential issue that needs to be address in our ever increasingly mobil infotech world. How our government address this issue will lay the ground work for future presidents to stay connected and gather information in a manner of their choosing. Future presidents, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, will benefit from the policies that will be created by PE Obama in order for him to use PDA/Smartphone if they so choose.

    If i where RIM, Nokia, Apple, Palm, et all I would start now on increasing their offerings to be certified by the NSA for Executive Branch usage. Imagine the free publicity they’d receive, as well as the marketing advantage, for gaining such certification. The business world would hop all over it, especially if it came with a consumer price point that is still within today’s PDA/Smartphone levels.

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