NSA wanted Hillary Clinton to use this secure Windows phone

The Sectéra Edge may not win many beauty pageants, but the Windows CE device is certified by the NSA for "top secret" use.

Sectera Edge secure smartphone. (Image: General Dynamics)

Newly released documents under the Freedom of Information Act show that Hillary Clinton, then-secretary of state had asked the National Security Agency to supply her with the same modified, strengthened BlackBerry used by President Barack Obama.

The request was eventually denied, citing security concerns as the intelligence agency was trying to cut down on the rise in BlackBerry users across the State Department.

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But because parts of Clinton's department was designated a sensitive compartmentalized facility (SCIF), an enclosed area used to prevent external eavesdropping, government policy prevented the secretary and her staff from using uncleared cellular devices.

The nearest "BlackBerry-like" solution supported by the NSA at the time was costly -- each device would cost the government about $4,750 and the secure server infrastructure (and associated costs) would add another $30,000 to the bill. But the phone itself wasn't very "BlackBerry-like" in design or ease-of-use, according to the State Department's security director at the time.

That's when Clinton sought her own BlackBerry, and where her troubles started.

Since then, the former senior Obama administration official and now Democratic presidential frontrunner has been embroiled in a row over the use of a private email server. Critics have accused her of skirting government archiving and transparency laws.

But the affair may have been avoided had the former cabinet official used the NSA's alternative: the Sectéra Edge, a clunky, heavy smartphone powered by a long-discontinued operating system.

(Image: General Dynamics)

The Edge is a part-phone, part-PDA that was certified by the NSA to be used with highly-classified materials, including internal network access and sending and receiving emails.

Running a version of Windows CE, first introduced in 1996, the so-called "secure mobile environment portable electronic device" probably closer resembled the Windows desktops hard-wired in the State Department's secure rooms than a BlackBerry -- let alone the BlackBerry 8830 used by the president.

According to a profile of the device by sister-site CNET some years ago, the NSA claims the installed versions of Internet Explorer, WordPad, and Windows Messenger are strong enough for "secret" levels and below.

Aside from its security features, the phone-PDA is shock-proof and drop-resistant.

The Edge was discontinued in 2015.


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