U.S. President Barack Obama is keeping his cherished BlackBerry for personal use, becoming the first sitting president to use email.
"The president has a BlackBerry through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday. He did not say with whom the compromise was struck.
Gibbs said the president will limit its use, and security has been enhanced to ensure that Obama can communicate in a way that's protected.
Previous presidents chose not to use email because it can be subpoenaed by Congress and courts and may be subject to public records laws.
Gibbs said the presumption from the White House counsel's office is that emails will be subject to the Presidential Records Act, the law that requires the National Archives to preserve presidential records. But he also said that some exemptions in the law allow for "strictly personal communications." He did not say how that classification would be determined.
Obama's BlackBerry has been a constant companion during the campaign and transition, and he had noted publicly that he was in negotiations to find a way to keep the device despite security concerns and records-keeping issues.
Gibbs said the president believes that using the personal wireless email device is an effective way to keep in touch with people without "getting stuck in a bubble."
The BlackBerry is made by Research in Motion Ltd., based in Waterloo, Ont.