- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2009


President Obama will soon get his souped-up, high-security BlackBerry for use in and around the White House and during presidential travel, said 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 email and make phone calls to others with the secure software loaded on their devices. Others expected to get secure BlackBerrys likely include top aides as well as first lady Michelle Obama.

The software being used to secure the personal digital assistant is called SecureVoice, developed by the Genesis Key, Inc. of Washington. It can turn any BlackBerry 8830 or Curve into a top-secret device for handling phone calls, e-mail and video streaming, as well as Internet access.

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Steven Garrett, Genesis Key chairman, said he could not discuss details of the work on the presidential BlackBerry but noted that Mr. Obama has 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 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 cyber warfare 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 by foreign governments or hackers.

In the interim, Mr. Obama has been using a patchwork of two devices, a BlackBerry and an NSA-supplied secure handheld device known as Sectera Edge. The General Dynamics-made Sectera must be plugged into the presidential BlackBerry, making it 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 NSA on the project. A White House spokesman had no immediate comment.

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