The White House Twitter feed has–as of this writing–233,182 followers. But apparently not too many are within the White House itself.
At today’s daily press briefing, a reporter asked White House press secretary Robert Gibbs if the White House would use Twitter to disseminate the speech on US-Muslim relations that President Obama is set to deliver later this week in Cairo. Laughing, Gibbs said, “that would be awkward”–perhaps thinking that the reporter meant Twittering it before it happened. He then added, “we can’t get” Twitter on the computers in the White House.
Really? When it was my turn to ask a question, I queried Gibbs on the George Tiller murder (he said Obama had nothing to add to his previous statement and indicated the president was not contemplating any additional steps to take), and I asked about the case of two American brothers who were imprisoned in Saudi Arabia after apparently participating in a religious protest (Gibbs said he was unfamiliar with this incident and did not know if Obama would raise it with the Saudi king when he sees him this week). Then I realized I had forgotten to ask about Twitter. And my turn was over.
After the briefing, I found a press aide who informed me that White House aides working on new media do have access to Twitter on their office computers, but that he and others in the White House press office did not. “Security?” I asked. He nodded.
So much of the White House is Twitter-free. That may be good for productivity. But Gibbs and his crew are missing a lot in the Twittershpere. Still, I wonder if Obama can get secret tweets on his BlackBerry.
Of course, I tweeted this story as it unfolded.