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Posted at 4:07 PM ET, 02/ 3/2011

E-mail outage affecting the White House, OMB

By Ed O'Keefe and Anne E. Kornblut

Updated 4:07 p.m. ET
E-mail outages and broken printers are commonplace in many offices.

But what do you do when it happens at the White House?

An outage affecting unclassified White House e-mail accounts began at around 7:45 a.m. Thursday and stretched well into the afternoon, which meant the most tech-savvy administration in history spent most of the day relying on papers, pens and landlines.

Reporters first inquired Thursday morning after e-mails sent to normally responsive contacts went unanswered.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer later confirmed the outage by using what he said was the only way he could: Twitter.

"Verizon is working to solve the problem," Pfeiffer typed, adding that printed copies of pool reports describing the president's activities would be available in the White House Press Office.

Printed copies?!

Stepping further back into the 20th Century, the outage forced officials to pick up the phone or meet reporters in person -- a rarity these days.

Inside the West Wing, advisers normally glued to their BlackBerries wandered the halls Thursday, suddenly untethered from their desks, talking to one another.

In at least part of the building, the heat had also ceased to function -- prompting some officials with fireplaces in their offices to light fires to stay warm. The smell of smoke wafted from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs's office, as aides sociably gathered at his desk to eat lunch together (Gibbs was on the road with the president).

Senior officials, unable to shoot each other quick emails as they normally do, darted up and down staircases for meetings. Several said they could not print, or access any documents at all -- even files that were not connected to e-mail. The files they could share with reporters were scanned copies of faxes -- again, not normal.

President Obama, who carries a BlackBerry, was cut off from e-mail as well during his trip to State College, Pa. One adviser said it felt "like a snow day," with no one getting much done.

The outage did not impact classified e-mail accounts of officials monitoring the situation in Egypt, sources said.

The glitch revived memories of a series of outages during the opening days of the Obama administration. Since then, such communication gaps have been rare.

Service was restored by mid-afternoon as messages written Wednesday evening finally sent and pool reports again appeared in electronic form.

Perhaps they'll use the paper copies as kindling for the fires?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe and Anne E. Kornblut  | February 3, 2011; 4:07 PM ET
Categories:  Administration  
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Comments

I blame Sarah Palin.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 3, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

They are testing the switch.

Posted by: coqui44 | February 3, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Maybe they could hire somebody to fix the problem. Oh, that's right, there's a hiring freeze and pay freeze. I am sure there are federal employees very motivated to help out. Then, again, treat people like you know what and don't expect much.

Posted by: RCFriedman | February 3, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

No, it's neither Sarah Palin vs. the halibut nor Al Gore (remember him?) and Global Warming (sorta cold recently, what?). It's that evil WikiLeaker and friends! Ready those ad hominems, Bill Keller and 60 Minutes!

Posted by: phvr38 | February 3, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

"The check's in the mail, Verizon."

B. Obama

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | February 3, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I didn't know PEPCO had taken over Verizon.

Posted by: jslaff | February 3, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

When I lived in Manassas, It took five weeks to solve my Verizon problem - I switched to Cavlier. It took less than a day.
Good Luck White House.

Posted by: peterroach | February 3, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Bottom Line: With a Middle East ally on the ropes, our enemies have SUCCESSFULLY penetrated the White House computer system. Period.

Posted by: BigSea | February 3, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Good news. It impacts their ability to put out their disingenuous spin B.S. about the incompetent Odumbo and his ficitional accomplishments.

Posted by: LarryG62 | February 3, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

They should do this every so often, no email for a day in all of the federal government, it would be amusing to see all the politicians to go without internet for a day.

Posted by: jtackeff | February 3, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

And yet the Republic carried on. www.granitesentry.com

Posted by: granitesentry | February 3, 2011 7:41 PM | Report abuse

OMG my BBF OB is offline!

please, what did people do before email...oh, yeah, talk to each other and write their own stuff.

Posted by: mil1 | February 3, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Are we relying on devices which at our most dreadful moment will fail us?

Posted by: n7uno | February 4, 2011 4:01 AM | Report abuse

E-mail outage effects the White House " Imagine, the turmoil if the truth ever entered there .

Posted by: puck-101 | February 4, 2011 5:33 AM | Report abuse

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