French President Discovers His 'Sarkophone'

ABC's Christophe Schpoliansky reports from Paris:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is known to be a mobile phone addict. It is not unusual to see him with his mobile phone glued to his ear or to hear his mobile phone ring during a speech. And contrary to all expectations, the president uses a classic, non-secured mobile phone. When the president needs to make a sensitive call, he dials in from a secured land line at the Elysée Palace in Paris.

But things are about to change.

During a visit to a factory of the telecommunications giant Thales yesterday in Cholet, western France, President Sarkozy was presented with his soon-to-be new toy, the Teorem, a super-phone with impenetrable encryption levels compared to commercial handhelds. The presentation of the new device, which looks like a regular smartphone, happened away from cameras, the technological performances of the device being kept secret. The secure mobile phone is “the first telephone to provide a high level of security along with greatly enhanced ease of use”, according to a press release from Thales.

Some 20,000 such devices will be issued to the president and his entourage as well as government ministers, their advisers and high military officials at the beginning of next year.

Shortly after President Sarkozy was elected in 2007, the use of Blackberry handheld devices was banned among workers in the offices of the president and prime minister, amid fears that foreign powers could spy on them. Blackberry phones are using servers in Britain and the US. But President Sarkozy was allowed to keep his personal mobile phone. Just like President Obama who last January persuaded his security staff to let him keep a smartphone to keep in touch with a select group of staff and friends. At the time, White House officials said President Obama had received a special, highly encrypted mobile device which satisfied security demands.

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