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Obama administration steps in to help referee foreign BlackBerry bans

Obama-blackberryAs the White House learned in January, don't try to take away President Obama's BlackBerry.

The Obama administration is butting into the mucky plans in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and now Indonesia for blocking some services associated with BlackBerry phones.

Government officials from those countries are unhappy with not being able to monitor some Internet activities on smart phones made by Research In Motion.

In a rather heated interview with the Wall Street Journal, RIM Co-Chief Executive Michael Lazaridis said officials in those countries don't understand how the Internet works and that the company cannot grant special access to encrypted data. He said RIM, which produces the top smart-phone platform in the U.S. and popular devices overseas, is being unfairly singled out.

For the U.S. to get involved might seem unusual. RIM is a Canadian company that's beating three American businesses -- Apple, Microsoft and Google -- in the hotly contested smart-phone industry.

But Obama loves his BlackBerry. When the then-senator faced.... ... having his gadget companion taken away for security reasons upon taking the presidency, Obama eventually got his way.

Having communication disrupted when a U.S. official with a BlackBerry arrives in the UAE doesn't sit well with Washington. "So we are directly affected by what has been suggested," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told the Associated Press.

"We are taking time to consult and analyze the full range of interests and issues at stake because we know that there is a legitimate security concern, but there's also a legitimate right of free use and access," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the AP.

We'd suggest someone e-mail UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan a link to this story to let him know, but his BlackBerry might not beep.

-- Mark Milian

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Photo: Obama uses a BlackBerry or similar device as he walks to the Oval Office. Credit: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

 
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Obama is my idol!

He said RIM, which produces the top smart-phone platform in the U.S. and popular devices overseas, is being unfairly singled out.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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