Mexican Press Attache Takes White House Cell Phones, BlackBerries (Updated x2)
[Guest post by DRJ]
From Fox News:
“Whether he was up to no good or simply desperate to play BrickBreaker, a Mexican press attache was caught on camera by Secret Service pocketing several White House BlackBerries during a recent meeting in New Orleans, FOX News has learned.
Sources with knowledge of the incident said the official, whose first name is Rafael, took six or seven of the handheld devices from a table outside a special room in the hotel where the Mexican delegation was meeting with President Bush.
Everyone entering the room was required to leave their cell phones, BlackBerries and other such devices on the table, a commonplace practice when high-level meetings are held. American officials discovered their missing belongings when they were leaving the session.
It didn’t take long before Secret Service officials reviewed videotape taken by a surveillance camera and found footage showing “Rafael” absconding with the BlackBerries.
Sources said “Rafael” made it all the way to the airport, where the Mexican president was preparing to leave New Orleans, before Secret Service officers caught up with him. He was forced to return the BlackBerries.”
Rafael claimed he accidentally took the devices and he was allowed to return to Mexico.
It’s possible Rafael saw a chance to score some high-tech devices and took advantage of it, but this could be a case of diplomatic spying. If so, Rafael used his position as press attache as a cover.
UPDATE 1, 4/24/08 – From the Houston Chronicle:
“Was it a case of bumbling espionage? Just what was a Mexican press officer thinking when he reportedly swiped U.S. dele-gates’ BlackBerrys at the North American summit this week?
Mexican officials didn’t wait to find out. On Thursday, Rafael Quintero Curiel was dismissed as deputy director of press logistics for Los Piños, the Mexican White House.
“He was removed in order not to obstruct the investigation,” said Gladis Boladeras, spokeswoman for President Felipe Calderon.
She said her office learned about the incident from a report on the Fox News Channel. Video cameras, Fox said, captured Quintero pocketing the devices left outside a room where Calderon and President Bush met.
Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, said it wasn’t clear whether the BlackBerrys belonged to White House staffers or whether they held sensitive information.
Fox said Secret Service agents tracked Quintero down. At first he denied having the devices, Fox said, but after he was shown the video footage he handed over the phones.
Then he invoked diplomatic immunity to avoid detention.”
UPDATE 2, 4/25/2008: Rafael responds that he’s been unfairly portrayed by the media and the reports “unfairly cast doubt on my honor.”