White House e-mail blackout
February 3rd, 2011
07:22 PM ET
10 years ago

White House e-mail blackout

WASHINGTON (CNN) –The White House learned an important lesson Thursday: the most powerful place in the world is not immune to some of the technical glitches that drive most Americans crazy.

Shortly before 8 a.m. the unclassified e-mail system that top advisers and the president himself rely on to communicate with each other went dark.

Reporters left hanging by unanswered e-mails were told of the blackout by a press assistant who said, "If you need to get in touch with anyone, you have to go up and see them because e-mail is down."

At 11:54, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer made a formal announcement via Twitter.

"FYI: WH unclassified e-mail went down shortly before 8 AM.' he tweeted. "Verizon is working to solve the problem. Pool reports will be avail in press office."

Not long after that an overhead intercom system sounded out a familiar announcement to those who worked in the White House during the dark ages. Pool reports, normally sent around electronically, were available on paper.

That's how it went for several hours. The podium where spokesman Robert Gibbs normally stands during his briefings was carpeted with pool reports and a transcript of an earlier gaggle by Gibbs aboard Air Force One.

By then Gibbs was standing in State College, Pennsylvania where the president was holding an event on jobs and innovation. He talked about "investing in cutting-edge research and technology," while his own technology-e-mail to his little BlackBerry- was failing him.

White House officials said classified communications were not affected. A senior White House aide said the issue was "Not a huge deal.  Kind of a quiet change of pace."

Tech workers were finally able to get the White House e-mail running by mid-afternoon.

Ahhh, the evidence flashed on computer screens at 3:03 p.m. It was a transcript of remarks the president made at the National Prayer Breakfast early in the morning.

Perhaps a sign that there is power in prayer.

Filed under: President Obama • White House
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Tortoise3

    Verizon sucks. Welcome to my world. It takes 2 hours for an e-mail from my husband's office to arrive at my office through Verizon systems. We work about 1000 feet from each other. We don't dare use Verizon e-mail to contact customers because we are too late for the job.

    February 3, 2011 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  2. aliousalam

    The president should stop giving advice to Mubarak. Our own citizens -an average of 12% of us, are jobless. North Africa is going up in flammes over joblessness and pauperization of the poor and middle class. This may be a blessing for the United States, because we are fore warned. If this type of anger was to happen in America, it would be a civil war because many people have guns.

    February 3, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  3. Erik

    this is normal... no reason to politicize this.

    February 3, 2011 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  4. goat

    why is the presiden't email unclassified?

    February 3, 2011 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  5. Lee Bartholomew

    glad to see a bit of a chuckle today in all the egyptian nightmare... so if the govt did shut down the net, they themselves wouldn't function... because they rely on verizon

    February 3, 2011 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  6. 100% ETH

    E-mail blacked/blocked-out, before 08:00A.M. to 12:00P.M.

    Everyone at the WH were doing nothing until the technicians fixing it. Therefore, the tax payers doesn't have to pay the FOUR Hours idling time for anyone in the WH who are relied on E-mails related jobs.

    ...this is called, TAX SAVINGS to invest...

    February 3, 2011 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  7. 100% ETH

    This never happened in Pellosi time. It just happened in...

    February 3, 2011 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  8. jazz

    Perhaps a sign that some lackeys in DC are getting FIRED for not using GOVT. systems and CISCO to ENSURE 100% uptime for NON-classified MAINFRAME level IP TRAFFIC, which, BTW, expires on THURSDAY, so I hope they switched to IPv6 by now or we are really screwed.

    February 3, 2011 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |