It seems President Barack Obama’s BlackBerry always finds a way to make news despite all the other issues happening in the world.
It started on election night in 2008 — one of the more monumental moments in then-Senator Obama’s life. He would not only be inaugurated as chief executive of the most powerful nation on the planet a few months later, but would have to part ways with one of his most trusted companions: his BlackBerry.
The president, like many other business professionals, uses his BlackBerry for everything from texting his daughters Sasha and Malia, to calling Vice President Joe Biden in the event of a national emergency. And the New York Times estimated in 2009 that the president’s de facto endorsement of BlackBerry is worth as much as $50 million to the company. This is why Research in Motion, makers of the BlackBerry, did everything it could to ensure the commander-in-chief could keep his trusty companion.
The Great Compromise
The president had three choices: use a different device that is more secure, somehow secure the BlackBerry to NSA standards, or get rid of it entirely. The latter was not an option, so the others were thoroughly weighted. Some suggested Obama ditch the BlackBerry in favor of the Sectéra Edge, a smartphone designed specifically for military personnel that the president used the first six months of his presidency. The device is in fact 100 percent secure, but also very bulky. The recipient of your calls, texts and emails would also have to have a Sectéra for it to work. All of this was too impractical for an everyday communication device, so securing the BlackBerry was the only option.
Research in Motion teamed up with a company called The Genesis Key to create an application known as SecurVoice to encrypt the president’s phone. Obama would in fact have to give up his old BlackBerry and email address, and replace the previous with an NSA-approved BlackBerry 8830 with the encryption software installed, according to Fox News. The device was delivered to the White House sometime in mid-2009 and has been at the president’s side since.
Political and Business Hot-Button Issue
The president got his way as far as keeping the BlackBerry, but it has since become a target for political and business banter. President Obama (who also owns an iPad) is devout to his BlackBerry, but his campaign and White House aides aren’t on the same page. FINS Technology, a recruiting and HR firm, reported that the Obama campaign spent nearly $360,000 on Apple products, compared to under $100,000 spent by the Romney campaign last year. The president was caught off guard when someone handed him an iPhone to call a campaign worker last September to thank them for their service. He appeared completely confused in an MSNBC video of the incident, and reminded everyone that he is a BlackBerry man.
Politics have also been injected into the “Barackberry” debate. Former Fox News commentator Glenn Beck demanded call records from the president’s BlackBerry in May, in an attempt to fuel the flames of the September 11, 2012, Benghazi incident. The demand was largely a publicity stunt, and was dismissed as such in the following days.