January 20, 2009: Obama wins a battle to use a BlackBerry during his presidency.

On the day of President Obama’s inauguration, he wins a battle for the right to use a BlackBerry during his presidency. He fought other officials for two months to use the device.  However, the New York Times reports, “the privilege of becoming the nation’s first emailing president comes with a specific set of rules.”

Obama, on his way to a campaign rally in New Hampshire last January, 2008. (Credit: Ozier Muhammad /The New York Times)

Obama using a BlackBerry in New Hampshire, January, 2008. (Credit: Ozier Muhammad /The New York Times)

His spokesperson Robert Gibbs says, “The president has a BlackBerry through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends, in a way that use will be limited and that the security is enhanced to ensure his ability to communicate.”

According to the Times, the rules Obama has to abide by are as follows:

  • “First, only a select circle of people will have his address, creating a true hierarchy for who makes the cut and who does not.
  • Second, anyone placed on the A-list to receive his email address must first receive a briefing from the White House counsel’s office.
  • Third, messages from the president will be designed so they cannot be forwarded.
  • Additionally, he has to use a specially made device, which must be approved by national security officials.”

Aides tell the Times, “All of Mr. Obama’s email messages remain subject to the Presidential Records Act, which could ultimately put his words into the public domain, as well as under the threat of subpoenas. That was a caveat that did not dissuade the president.” (New York Times, 01/22/09)