by Joshua Topolsky
This morning we've been barraged with tips alerting us to the news that President Obama has won his struggle to keep his (apparently deeply loved) BlackBerry -- a device which has historically been verboten in the White House due to security concerns. Unfortunately for the mainstream media outlets, a little conflation here and a little lack of fact-checking there does not a BlackBerry make. Just about everyone -- straight up to CNN and the AP -- are sourcing a post by Marc Ambinder in the Atlantic stating that Obama is "going to get his blackberry [sic]," though the actual news may be far different. Ambinder seems to be conflating two stories which he doesn't source at all, one saying that the NSA will jack-up Obama's BlackBerry with some kind of "super-encryption package," and the other stating that the President will get a Sectera Edge -- an NSA approved (but not issued) device we reported he might be getting last week. Here's the news in the exact (confusing) wording Ambinder uses:
On Monday, a government agency that the Obama administration -- but that is probably the National Security Agency -- added to a standard blackberry a super-encryption package.... and Obama WILL be able to use it ... still for routine and personal messages.The problem is that Ambinder (and the mainstream media) doesn't seem to know the difference between some NSA smartphone and an actual RIM BlackBerry... and there's a big difference. Of course, we won't tell MSM (or even solo bloggers) how to do their job, but we think there's some serious air-clearing called for here. We have yet to hear official word on what, if any, device Obama will be using in the White House, and recombining two separate pieces of information that may not be related (or fully understood) seems lazy at best, and dangerous at worst.
With few exceptions, government Blackberries aren't designed for encryption that protects messages above the "SECRET" status, so it's not clear whether Obama is getting something new and special. The exception: the Sectera Edge from General Dynamics, which allows for TOP SECRET voice conversations.