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Originally published Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 12:55 PM

Live inauguration coverage: AP | Washington Post | KUOW

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Spokesman says Obama is keeping his BlackBerry

President Barack Obama is keeping his cherished BlackBerry, becoming the first sitting president to use e-mail.

WASHINGTON —

President Barack Obama is keeping his cherished BlackBerry, becoming the first sitting president to use e-mail.

"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 e-mail 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 e-mails 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 but made clear that the device could be used for both business and personal communication.

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 a personal hand-held e-mail device is an effective way to keep in touch with people without "getting stuck in a bubble."

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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