The Washington Times - January 26, 2009, 04:16PM

What may be the most important enterprise e-mail system in the free world — the network that supports communication into and out of the White House — has been “down” since just before 9 a.m. Monday, reports Christina Bellantoni, a White House correspondent for The Washington Times.

The “last email sent by the White House was at 8:51 a.m.,” Ms. Bellantoni wrote in a message of her own. As a result, she added, “they had to distribute two memoranda [on 8 1/2-by-14-inch] paper.”

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According to Ms. Bellantoni, “BlackBerries are not working, the ‘entire system’ is down and has been down for hours.”

One unnamed White House staffer waived her BlackBerry and said, “This is basically like a watch.”

Apparently, the e-mail outage also had an impact on the daily White House press briefing. Press secretary Robert Gibbs had hoped to give reporters what’s called a “week ahead” on items that the president would deal with. However, according to a transcript: “GIBBS: Yeah, that week ahead — hold on.┬áThe week ahead I promised unfortunately fell victim to somebody in our e-mail system.”

On what may have been another matter, the press secretary said, “We have — we have a statement — again, I’m using the — there’s only one e-mail system at the White House at a time, and unfortunately, it’s not working.”

Such outages have happened in many enterprises, and the last time the White House featured prominently in a story about e-mail issues was in April 2007, when the Research in Motion network that supports BlackBerry e-mail had its own failure, which affected the executive branch, Congress and other high-echelon types.

This seems to be the first major e-mail outage at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, however.