President Obama can keep his BlackBerry, making him the first sitting president to use email.
Barack Obama has resisted calls to relinquish his beloved handheld despite concerns over personal security, espionage, and presidential record-keeping.
"He 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 security enhanced to ensure his ability to communicate, but to do so effectively and to do so in a way that is protected," White House press secretary Roberts Gibbs told reporters on Thursday.
Some in the intelligence community fear the device may be a source of information leaks or be used to track the president's location.
Gibbs wouldn't elaborate on how the president's handheld will be protected, or the type of security enhancements that have been added.
Former presidents have chosen not to use email because they can be subpoenaed by Congress and made public under the Presidential Records Act. Gibbs said the "presumption" is that emails on the BlackBerry are still subject to public records laws, but noted the Act includes exceptions for strictly personal messages.
Of course, sometimes personal communications are released anyway, such the this clip of Lyndon Johnson informing his tailor about how he wants his pants fitted in relation to his "bunghole."
According to The Atlantic magazine, the president will use a BlackBerry fitted with a "super-encryption package" developed by an unnamed intelligence agency - most likely the National Security Agency.
"He believes that it's a way of keeping in touch with folks and a way of doing it outside of getting stuck in a bubble," said Gibbs at the press briefing.
Neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton used email during their presidencies, although Bush has claimed he used email before becoming president. ®