With persistent security concerns apparently being overcome, President Barack Obama is reportedly getting the thumbs up to soon obtain a souped-up BlackBerry for use in and around the White House and during presidential travel.
The top-secret BlackBerry 8830 is reportedly 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.
The software being used is SecureVoice, from Genesis Key Inc. of Washington. It allows users to access data up to the Top Secret classification level and was developed by Genesis Key with the help of engineers from the Toronto-based Research In Motion, which makes BlackBerry. The software can turn any BlackBerry 8830 or Curve into a device that is designed to defeat hackers and eavesdroppers.
According to industry observers, the now-exclusive security technology is expected to someday be commonplace on all devices for the mainstream public.
The software will allow President Obama to view documents classified as Top Secret while out of the White House, as well as letting him stay in touch with The First Lady and other family members, who will also be reportedly issued with the handsets.
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 about the presidential BlackBerry.
Prior to being elected, Obama revealed his devotion to his Blackberry on the campaign trail but was forced to give up his personal handset on inauguration day, amid concerns that it could be targeted by foreign intelligence agencies. U.S. law demands that all emails and other messages sent or received by the president be retained, so Obama's staff have been working on an archive system to ensure that all his BlackBerry communications are preserved.
Obama had previously noted that security officials would have to "pry the device out of my hands," once he was sworn in.
"We're going to put his BlackBerry back in his hand," Steven Garrett, CEO of Genesis Key told the Washington Times, although he was not able to elaborate on the details of its development.
Since being sworn in, the president has been forced to make do with a patchwork of devices that includes a Blackberry and an NSA-supplied Sectera Edge Smartphone originally created for that agency due its impregnability. Currently, the Sectera must be plugged into the presidential Blackberry, making its use more cumbersome than the secure BlackBerry being developed.