Inside the Ring

Obama’s BlackBerry

President Obama will soon get his souped-up, high-security BlackBerry for use in and around the White House and during presidential travel, according to Obama administration officials.

The top-secret BlackBerry 8830 is in the final stages of development by the National Security Agency, which will soon begin checking to make sure its encryption software meets federal standards. The device could be ready for use in the next few months.

Once in hand, the president will be able to send text and e-mail and make phone calls to others with the secure software loaded on their devices. Others expected to get secure BlackBerrys include top aides as well as first lady Michelle Obama.

The software being used is called SecureVoice, developed by the Genesis Key Inc. of Washington. It can turn any BlackBerry 8830 or Curve into a device that is designed to defeat hackers, eavesdroppers and spies.

Steven Garrett, Genesis Key chairman, said he could not discuss details of the work on the presidential BlackBerry but noted that Mr. Obama had said he expected security officials to pry the device out of his hands once he was sworn in.

“We’re going to put his BlackBerry back in his hand,” Mr. Garrett said.

“With the recent foreign cybersecurity threats, it is important that the president has a BlackBerry that is completely secure at the top-secret level,” said Gary S. Elliott, Genesis’ chief information assurance officer, who is a specialist in cyberwarfare threats.

The president was forced to give up his unsecured BlackBerry after Inauguration Day, amid concerns that its communications and e-mail would be intercepted.

In the interim, Mr. Obama has been using a patchwork of two devices, a BlackBerry and an NSA-supplied secure hand-held device known as Sectera Edge. The General Dynamics Corp.-made Sectera must be plugged into the presidential BlackBerry, making its use more cumbersome than a secure BlackBerry.

The software that allows users access to data up to the Top-Secret classification level was developed by Genesis Key with the help of engineers from the Toronto-based Research In Motion, which makes BlackBerry.

The White House Communications Agency, part of the Pentagon’s Defense Information Systems Agency, is working with the NSA on the project. A White House spokesman had no comment.

Pulitzer outrage

Retired military analysts are reacting with outrage that the Pulitzer committee awarded one of its prestigious prizes for a story discredited by an independent investigation, special correspondent Rowan Scarborough reports.

The Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting announced Monday went to New York Times reporter David Barstow for his story, “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” and other stories.

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About the Author

Bill Gertz INSIDE THE RING

Bill Gertz is geopolitics editor and a national security and investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. Gertz also writes a weekly column ...

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