January 8th, 2009
11:54 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama not giving up BlackBerry without a fight

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/08/art.obamabb.gi.jpg caption="Obama is finding it difficult to give up his BlackBerry."](CNN) - Barack Obama faces a host of challenges when he assumes the Oval Office later this month, but the hardest personally for the president-elect might just be relinquishing his cherished BlackBerry.

Those who follow Obama on a regular basis know the president-elect is constantly on the addictive e-mail device. But the Secret Service, as well as Obama lawyers, are concerned it could easily be hacked and are demanding the new president hand over the BlackBerry before he moves into the White House.

But in an interview with CNBC Wednesday, Obama made clear he's not giving it up without a fight.

"They're going to pry it out of my hands," the president-elect said.

"You know, this town's full of lawyers. I don't know if you've noticed...and they have a lot opinions. And so I'm still in a scuffle around that, but it–look, it's the hardest thing about being president. How do you stay in touch with the flow of everyday life," he added.

The Secret Service also made President Bush give up e-mail when he assumed the presidency, and former President Clinton, during whose term e-mail became widely-used, sent a grand total of two e-mails while president - one as a test to see if it worked and the second to former Sen. and astronaut John Glenn before he went back into space in 1998.

But in the interview Wednesday, Obama suggested keeping his BlackBerry is one way he could stay connected to the real world.

"I've got to look for every opportunity to do that – ways that aren't scripted, ways that aren't controlled, ways where, you know, people aren't just complimenting you or standing up when you enter into a room, ways of staying grounded," he said.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (502 Responses)
  1. Joel

    What a tempest in a teapot. It makes sense that he needs to give it up (it has a GPS, any Blackberry employee would be able to tell exactly where he is at any moment), but him expressing regret about that is hardly him being petulant. I'd have a hard time giving up my iPhone, and I might grouse a bit about it. Crikey people, there are more important things to worry about.

    January 8, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  2. Mell

    Mr. Obama, you work for us now and all your correspondence, once you are in office, are subject to Freedom of Information rules – even correspondence made from your blackberry.

    January 8, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  3. Ken

    I support the President. We can't live in fear every day. LIVE FREE OR DIE, Mr. President. Keep the BB.

    January 8, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  4. obama-mama


    January 8, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  5. huh...

    I seriously doubt he will type anything into his blackberry that could be considered a concern for national security. It is most likely a way to get in touch with various friends, have a little chat to relieve stress from well... being president. If Obama DOES use the blackberry to speak about sensitive state secrets, than I would view that as a breach of security, but that would have already been spoken of at length by secret service, Obama understands.

    January 8, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  6. Objective thinking

    1) Are Obama supporters emailing Obama directly and is he reading their emails directly? If the answer is no, then having his Blackberry isn't going to help him keep in touch with the American people. Think about it, folks. It's just something for him to say that makes you go "awwwww." And reading the comments on here, it worked. People just took it and don't question HOW a Blackberry would keep the President in touch with the American people.

    2) If you think they can make the Blackberry unhackable, you know nothing about hacking.

    January 8, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  7. stacy

    Put it up throw it away my lord get a new one. People due it everyday and so can the president. He's no better than me or anyone else for that matter.

    January 8, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  8. Jon

    Most in the congress have a blackberry and use them on a daily basis. there is enough encryption and security to protect what would come out of and be sent to his blackberry. this is a man who is about change and not the status quo and isolationism.

    January 8, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  9. Joe Unger, San Francisco

    So Blackberries have a built in GPS? So someone could track wherever Obama is at any moment?
    so Blackberries can be readily hacked into? So someone could send fake messages from Obama's Blackberry?
    Blackberries cannot be made supersecure?
    This seems like a no-brainer to me.
    Surely Obama also realizes that people knew what was going on in the world before Blackberries? Or not?

    January 8, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  10. Jean Martin

    Mr. President Elect:
    You need to give it up. Sorry, some things you must do and some
    people you have to listen too, at least some of the time when you are president and they are responsible for your safety. They have a nightmare job in trying to keep you safe. I have watched you in crowds and have said the last thing I would want to do is try to protect you, please give them a break and the people of the US who know there are reasons for concerns at all times. Maybe they can figure out something later to your satisfaction to keep you connected.
    Thanks for listening.

    January 8, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. AnaB

    Real American: You can spout off about how you repubs are the only ones who work and don't live off the government, but no matter how many times you say it, doesn't make it true. I've worked since I was 15 years old and never got a single hand out. But I do have a die hard republican uncle who has lived off the system for years.

    January 8, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. Grog in Ohio

    What a great incentive for RIM to do a better job of securing their product and having the greatest endorsement possible!

    12 days till the end of the Bush administration.

    January 8, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  13. TomL

    With all the perils in the world knowing the President has a Blackberry will not be what keeps you up at night.

    Whether he needs it or not is irrelevant. His having it sends a powerful message to all that our leaders do not fear comunicating with our peolpe or visa versa. Keep it but rarely use it? Don't know, don't care – just keep it. It is a positive symbol of what is right with our system.

    Ever since the Nixon tapes we have this knee-jerk reaction that it is somehow important for President's to never be documented for their own good. We elected the wrong guy if that's why he doesn't have one.

    January 8, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  14. Brian

    This is silly.

    Mr. President-Elect, you need to accept the fact that one of your responsibilities is national security.

    I'm afraid you will have to give up the Blackberry for the time being.

    January 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  15. Denise

    Let the man keep is Berry!

    January 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  16. shane

    the CIA or Secret Service cannot arrange for him to have a secure handheld web device that only receives internet updates and does not allow any type of text or email to come and go?

    January 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  17. js

    Leaving all the I love/hate the man aside, I see three issues here.

    Two of them are security related. First is the obvious one that this is not even close to secure enough to handle presidential communications. Think not just what comes out but also what goes in to the handset. I'm sure the NSA folks could cook up a secure version of the handset and server code without too much work.

    Second, to what degree does the handset become a continuous president locater? If you are trying to keep the president safe, and may want to set up decoys and the like. Having a full time continuous broadcast device that says "the pres is here" may not be quite what the Secret Service folks want.

    But I think these are not the real issue and why the lawyers came up. With the interpretations by the supreme court over the last many years, the ability for the president to have a private communication that is recorded in any way is impossible. So the idea that Obama might have lots of casual recorded communications must give the presidential lawyers fits.

    Notice that in articles the lawyers are not just saying get rid of the blackberry. They are saying get rid of casual email communications completely. One article said that the current president has to give up email.

    This is a critical form of rapid communications, and my $.02 is that the lawyers need to lose this. being able to send and receive quick emails on any subject is too important to modern, technology accelerated life to give up.

    To the people who say "I can live without out it, so can the president" I have one question. What percentage of the people who have more than 20 people reporting through them don't have some form of continuous access email? How about those with 2000 people? How many people are there in the executive branch???

    January 8, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  18. Marci

    I agree, he should get to keep it. I dare someone to try and take my phone away... am I addicted to it? YEP! And because we live in the age of technology, I think he's entitled to keep something for himself to keep him envolved with the people. Makes me love him even more....

    January 8, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  19. nba writer in San Antonio

    With the way technology is today, there is no reason for President-elect Obama to give up something that has been a part of his every day life in regards to taking care of business.

    It's amazing how Hollywood can show a President who has a cell phone and a Blackberry and yet nobody at Langley, Quantico or MIT can figure out a way to make sure that every elected official on the national level have secured connections.

    Surely there has to be somebody out there with Microsoft security certification that can make this as easy as 1, 2, 3.

    January 8, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  20. ridiculous

    how about me make him write with a quill and ink as well. You can't tell me they can't come up with a super secure version for him.

    January 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  21. Contrary Mary

    Well said A Real American and Sara for America! You have taken your blinders off too ain't you? Feels good to see realistically doesn't it? I think so...have been for ten or so years now.

    January 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  22. LWW

    @donna and he drags around his little sign to prove it.

    January 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  23. Kim J

    Does this guy have an addictive personality – drugs, cigarettes, the blackberry.

    January 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  24. young Dem

    If I hear one more conservative and the stupid comment about liberals living on the government dime I might smack the first person I see, lib or conservative!

    Your message is stupid and old. Many liberals are spending their time working and earning degrees while conservatives like Joe the Domestic Violence Attacker, I mean Joe the Plumber is running around the world feeding his need for attention.

    I would like some reports that list those who so called live on the government dime and their party affiliation and voting record so once and for all, these tired Reaganomic terms can die.

    By the way, the banks and the auto industry are living on the government dime, two industries that are ran by white males, many conservative ones, so please stop with this silliness already so called real American who wrote this comment below.

    I think Obama should give up the Blackberry, it will just be a tool for hacking and be a complete mess. I understand why he doesn't want to, I enjoy my iPhone so I can relate. And for the person who calls himself a real American while making up imaginary statistics regarding liberals, this YOUNG female minority liberal here, who works and has and several degrees, does not live on the government and is exactly why Republican lost the election.

    January 8, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  25. Working Liberal American

    Dear REAL American.

    Perhaps liberals multi-task better than conservatives.

    I am a full-time employee, fulfilling a political internship and starting my own non-profit organization that helps connect children at home with children abroad – AND I STILL FIND TIME to read and comment on this ticker.

    Spend less time accusing and more time doing.

    January 8, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21