Obama: 'They're going to have to pry my BlackBerry away'

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The Independent US

Barack Obama is determined to hang on to his BlackBerry, the personal lifeline that keeps him connected to the outside world, even as the cocoon of the presidency tightens around him.

"I'm still clinging to my BlackBerry," he said yesterday. "They're going to pry it out of my hands." Hooked to his belt, it was his constant companion on the campaign trail, keeping him close to family, friends and his staff. As a result, he was the best informed and most responsive candidate in the election.

Much of Mr Obama's electoral success is credited to his detailed knowledge of the political battleground. With his organiser at hand, he was always up to date with the latest news, polls, fundraising figures and political gossip.

But Mr Obama is discovering that lawyers rather than presidents make the rules in Washington. Harry Truman referred to the White House as the "great white jail" and George Bush disappeared into cyber silence as soon as he crossed its threshold. Mr Obama has been advised that his BlackBerry is vulnerable to being hacked into and for his own legal protection, he should not use email during his presidency.

But keeping in touch by email is Mr Obama's way of escaping the trappings of power and remaining in contact with ordinary people. "I've got to look for every opportunity to do that – ways that aren't scripted, ways that aren't controlled, ways where, you know, people aren't just complimenting you or standing up when you enter into a room, ways of staying grounded," he said. "I don't know that I'll win. I'm still fighting it."

The President-elect now finds himself cosseted behind security barriers and driven around in an armoured limousine accompanied by a small army of Secret Service agents.

Mr Obama vented his frustration at being stuck inside the bubble and disclosed he was even discouraged from going body surfing in Hawaii. He said his wife, Michelle, found the fuss over photographs of him walking shirtless on the beach amusing. "It was silly, but, you know, silliness goes with this job."