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Obama Staff Arrives to White House Stuck in Dark Ages of Technology

President Obama, with Vice President Biden, finishes signing one of his executive orders on his first full day in office.
President Obama, with Vice President Biden, finishes signing one of his executive orders on his first full day in office. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
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"It is what it is," said a White House staff member, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Nobody is being a blockade right now. It's just the system we need to go through."

The system has daunted past White House employees. David Almacy, who became President George W. Bush's Internet director in 2005, recalled having a week-long delay between his arrival at the White House and getting set up with a computer and a BlackBerry.

"The White House itself is an institution that transitions regardless of who the president is," he said. "The White House is not starting from scratch. Processes are already in place."

One White House official, who arrived breathless yesterday after being held up at the exterior gate, found he had no computer or telephone number. Recently called back from overseas duty, he ended up using his foreign cellphone.

Another White House official whose transition cellphone was disconnected left a message temporarily referring callers to his wife's phone.

Several people tried to route their e-mails through personal accounts.

But there were no missing letters from the computer keyboards, as Bush officials had complained of during their transition in 2001.

And officials in the press office were prepared: In addition to having their own cellphones, they set up Gmail accounts, with approval from the White House counsel, so they could send information in more than one way.

Staff writers Jose Antonio Vargas and Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.


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