White House e-mail crashes

Administration didn't explain the exact cause of the outage.

The tech-savvy Obama White House is suffering the inconvenience and embarrassment of an e-mail crash that has lasted several hours Monday afternoon, according to published reports.

The outage was announced at 1:30 p.m. during a regular briefing at which Press Secretary Robert Gibbs apologized to reporters for the administration's failure to answer e-mails, reports say.

White House e-mails rely on an Outlook server that apparently crashed, but the administration didn't explain the exact cause of the outage.

The e-mail blackout is a little embarrassing to the new president, whose campaign embraced all forms of technology and made masterful use of it to raise funds, organize volunteers and disseminate information. Obama himself is notorious for his BlackBerry addiction. And he has committed to having traceable e-mails so he doesn't wind up like his predecessor George W. Bush, whose administration lost thousands of them.

But today Obama's staff was reduced to using ancient technologies such as photocopiers. Rather than send attachments containing executive orders Obama signed, the press staff distributed printouts.

Bloggers were having fun with the predicament.

"Maybe that's why Robert Gibbs won't return your e-mails -- actually, that's not why he won't return your e-mails, but at least now he has an excuse," says Mark Ambinder in his blog.

"Or maybe Mr. Obama's top-secret Blackberry had thrown a kink into the works," suggests the New York Times' Caucus. "Whatever the reason, Mr. Gibbs insisted it was no crisis, and seemed to see an upside in being disconnected -- at least for the time being. 'I've had the calmest morning I've had in about 5 years,' he said."

"Sorry dudes all the resumes you sent to the White House this morning were not received, because George Bush broke the emails before he left office," Wonkette wrote.

While the problem had its lighter side, the administration wouldn't comment on whether the problem extended to other systems. "We don't comment on security issues," one aide is quoted as saying.

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Tim Greene

Network World
Topics: USA government, security, e-mail
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