President Obama became famous for his Blackberry addiction shortly after taking office, and it would appear this is one thing Clinton has in common with the sitting president. But according to State Department emails, the NSA was on hand to spoil the party.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Judicial Watch lay out the disagreement between Clinton’s team and the NSA. Clinton wanted a “Blackberry-like” solution for accessing secure emails, claiming that limiting her emails to “Mahogany Row”, the 7th floor at the State Department, would be too constricting.
A solution did exist at the time—secure devices running Windows CE, but they were expensive, only rated for “Secure” materials, and y’know, ran Windows. The NSA had little sympathy: according to one email, “Each time we asked the question ‘What was the solution for POTUS,’ we were politely asked to shut up and color.”
The rules exist for a reason. Emails were limited to “Mahogany Row” because it’s a designated Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, with heightened digital security, and no wireless devices allowed inside. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had waivers to allow the use of Blackberries by her staff, although this quickly turned into an “unmanageable number of users” and was phased out due to security concerns.
The emails are interesting not just because they reveal Clinton’s addiction to Blackberries: it’s also vital context for the ongoing email server saga. The emails prove that Clinton’s staff were informed about the dangers of accessing secure email from an unsecured smartphone, and then turned around and did exactly that.