2016年1月26日 星期二

For Gadget Geek in the Oval Office, High Tech Has Its Limits

For Gadget Geek in the Oval Office, High Tech Has Its Limits

President Obama’s Fitbit device was visible on his left wrist during a meeting in Paris in December.
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
President Obama’s Fitbit device was visible on his left wrist during a meeting in Paris in December.
WASHINGTON — In this always-on, always-connected world, what good is a Fitbit with no GPS or an iPad that can’t connect to the cloud?
Hint: Ask President Obama.


Mr. Obama is the first true gadget geek to occupy the Oval Office, and yet his eagerness to take part in the personal technology revolution is hampered by the secrecy and security challenges that are daily requirements of his job.
What counts as must-have features for many people — high-definition cameras, powerful microphones, cloud-connected wireless radios and precise GPS location transmitters — are potential threats when the leader of the free world wants to carry them around.
And so using the latest devices means more than merely ordering one on Amazon for delivery to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It means accepting the compromises imposed by White House technology experts, whose mission is to secure the president’s communications, and by the Secret Service agents who protect him.
“I am not allowed, for security reasons, to have an iPhone,” Mr. Obama conceded at a youth summit in 2013.
He has not given up, though. Mr. Obama is the first commander in chief to regularly carry a specially secured BlackBerry. He reads briefings and checks scores from ESPN on an iPad (the first of which was given to him by Steve Jobs before its public release). And recently he has been seen wearing the Fitbit Surge, a fitness band packed with all the latest technology, on his left wrist.
Still, from the experiences of others inside the White House, it is easy to conclude that Mr. Obama is not having a typical out-of-the-box experience with his electronic toys.
James E. Cartwright, a retired Marine general who served as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during part of Mr. Obama’s first term, was one of the administration’s earliest tech adopters. Eager for a better way to have information at his fingertips in top-secret meetings, General Cartwright was dazzled by the possibilities when the first iPad was unveiled early in 2010.
“If nothing else, in the physical sense, not having to have large binders and four lieutenants to carry them for me,” General Cartwright said of his decision to carry his briefing documents on an iPad. “As soon as people saw it, the race was on: ‘How do I get one?’”
But it wasn’t that easy, he recalled. The general’s iPad was essentially a prototype modified at his direction by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s high-tech lab that helped develop weather satellites, the Internet, GPS, and stealth technology.
The agency made physical alterations to the iPad, removing the cameras, wireless chips, location sensors and microphones. Briefing documents were loaded onto the device every morning via a secure cable. Anything General Cartwright wanted to save came off the device the same way in a process he called “store and dump.”
“What I ended up with was a pretty dumb iPad,” he said. “It wasn’t connected to anything. Anything was removed that could transmit.”
The president has acknowledged that his BlackBerry is enhanced with security features that ease fears of his emails being hacked or intercepted. Even so, his communications are severely limited — only a small number of designated people are even allowed to send him email.
When Mr. Obama posted his first message from the @POTUS Twitter account in May, he borrowed an iPhone from a staff member instead of using his secure BlackBerry.
Such precautions are seen as vital in an era when cyberattacks from the nation’s adversaries are common. Chinese hackers are suspected of having breached millions of records at the Office of Personnel Management, and officials believe Russian hackers penetrated an unclassified White House email system — though apparently not Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry.
Mr. Obama is not the first person inside the White House to take precautions against high-tech dangers.
In 2007, Vice President Dick Cheney disabled the wireless abilities of his defibrillator, which had been implanted to regulate his heartbeat. His fear: that terrorists could have hacked the signal in an assassination attempt, not unlike the dramatic plot twist that killed the vice president in Showtime’s “Homeland” a few years ago.
But Mr. Obama is the first committed early adopter of personal technology to serve as president. In 2014, he told his helicopter pilot to wait while he ran back into the Oval Office. “I forgot my BlackBerry,” the president told reporters, holding the phone up. When Mr. Obama filmed a short video preview before his State of the Union address this year, his BlackBerry could be seen on the desk behind him, and his new Fitbit was clearly visible.
Those close to him say he envisions an ultra-high-tech presidential library when he leaves the White House. And in long dinners with Silicon Valley titans, he has talked extensively about ways to better use personal technology to increase voter turnout and improve civic engagement.
Mostly, though, Mr. Obama is just intent on being plugged in the way most Americans are these days. In a town hall exchange in 2011 with Jorge Ramos of Univision, Mr. Obama seemed amused that Mr. Ramos did not think he had his own computer.
“I mean, Jorge, I’m the president of the United States,” he said. “You think I’ve got to go borrow somebody’s computer?”


Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
所以對他而言,使用最新的設備,不是從亞馬遜下訂單,讓對方送到賓夕法尼亞大道1600號那麼簡單,他還必須接受白宮技術專家和特勤局(Secret Service)特工要求他做出的妥協,前者的任務是確保總統的通訊安全,後者則保護他人身安全。
但是,他並沒有放棄。奧巴馬是首位經常攜帶一部經過特殊安全處理的黑莓手機的美國三軍統帥。他會在iPad上閱讀簡報,偶爾看一眼ESPN頻道上的體育比賽結果(他的第一個iPad是史蒂夫·喬布斯送給他的,當時產品還沒有正式發佈)。最近有人看到他左手腕上帶着一個Fitbit Surge,一種採用了大量最新技術的健身手環。
曾在奧巴馬第一任期內擔任參謀長聯席會議(Joint Chiefs of Staff)副主席的退役海軍上將詹姆斯·E·卡特賴特(James E. Cartwright),也是美國政府內最早使用這類科技產品的人之一。卡特賴特上將渴望在絕密會議中能以更理想的方式隨時取閱一切信息,所以當2010年初iPad面世時,這種設備所帶來的可能性令他大為傾倒。
但他回憶,這一點並不容易實現。卡特賴特上將的iPad實際上是由國防高級研究計劃局(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)按照他的指示改造過的,該機構是美國軍隊的高科技實驗室,幫助進行氣象衛星、互聯網、GPS和隱身技術等方面的研發。
在一個經常遭敵對國網絡攻擊的時代,這樣的謹慎被認為是必不可少的。美國懷疑中國黑客盜取了美國政府人事管理辦公室(Office of Personnel Management)數百萬僱員的記錄。還有一些官員認為,白宮一個機密郵件系統遭到了俄羅斯黑客的入侵,不過顯然不是奧巴馬使用的黑莓手機。
2007年,當時的副總統迪克·切尼(Dick Cheney)去掉了放置在他體內的除顫器的無線功能,這個小儀器可以使他的心臟正常搏動。他的擔憂是:恐怖分子可能會試圖獲取這個除顫器的無線信號以便謀殺他,就像幾年前Showtime電視劇《國土安全》(Homeland)里副總統被暗殺的驚人橋段一樣。
但總的來說,奧巴馬只是想與大多數美國人時下的生活方式保持一致。2011年他在一個市政廳會面中與Univision的豪爾赫·拉莫斯(Jorge Ramos)交談,拉莫斯沒有想到奧巴馬有自己的電腦,這似乎讓他覺得很好笑。