The new pecking order in Washington

obamablackberry In the days following his inauguration as US President, much has been talked about concerning Barack Obama and his Blackberry.

If, as US President, he were to continue using a mobile device to connect with people, as he did during his election campaign, much discussion focused on things like worries about security issues and the Presidential Records Act if the Commander in Chief were to be openly accessible without control or restriction on voice and email.

All that seems to have largely gone away as President Obama now has a Blackberry-like device – a Sectera Edge, pictured below, according to a ZDNet report.


It’s made by General Dynamics, a major US defence contractor, and is no ordinary Blackberry, that’s for sure. Indeed, it’s not actually a Blackberry.

So President Obama is the first US president to use a mobile device while in office. Who would he talk to, I wonder? Send and receive emails to and from? No doubt his contact list would be pored over by everyone from his closest advisers to the US Secret Service, CIA, FBI and other US government agencies.

Some insight, if not actual answers, to such musing comes in “Symbol of Elite Access: E-Mail to the Chief,” a fascinating article in the New York Times over the weekend, that examines what Obama’s Blackberry (that’s how it’s known, whether it’s a Blackberry or not) means to the political structure in Washington and who has access to the most powerful man in the world.

[…] It is now the ultimate status symbol in a town obsessed by status. Mr. Obama was spotted last week trying out his new BlackBerry – or actually a more sophisticated, encrypted variation – and aides say that he uses a computer in the study next to the Oval Office but that he has agreed to limit the number of people he would exchange e-mail with. In the process, he created a new measure for Washington to judge who really has the ear, or the thumb, of the president.

So who knows President Obama’s email address and is able to connect with him? It’s a pretty short list at the moment, according to the NYT.

[…] Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has it, along with his own new super-secret BlackBerry and e-mail address. So do Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, his top advisers and some of his oldest friends from Chicago.

The challenge for those privileged few with the address will be when to use it, says the New York Times.

[…] What is the etiquette on sending e-mail to the president? Several friends and aides said they would hit the ‘reply’ button but not the ‘new message’ button – in other words, send messages only when messaged first.

The best quote comes from Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer of Illinois and a friend of Mr Obama:

“I figure if he needs me or wants to talk to me on any social level, he can get me very, very quickly. His friends need to have a shift in mentality. He’s no longer Barack. He’s an institution.”

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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