Friday, April 25, 2008 MEXICO CITY -- A press aide at the president's office has been dismissed following allegations that he took BlackBerrys belonging to U.S. officials at a summit in New Orleans, an official said Friday.
Rafael Quintero Curiel acknowledged picking up two of the telephone and e-mail devices at the summit of the leaders of Mexico, the United States and Canada this week, but said he thought they had been left behind and was trying to return them. A Mexican government spokeswoman said Quintero Curiel was dismissed from his year-old job coordinating logistics for reporters covering President Felipe Calderon's international trips. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to talk to the news media about the case. White House Press Secretary Dana Marie Perino said Thursday that a member of the Mexican delegation was involved in "the disappearance of a couple of BlackBerrys." She said she didn't know whether the phones contained sensitive information, but said they were recovered. She did not mention Quintero Curiel by name. It was not clear how many of the devices were taken or who they belonged to. In a letter sent to The Associated Press and local news media, Quintero Curiel said he picked up the phones thinking they had been forgotten, and intended to send them to their owners." Given that most of the delegates had left the hotel where the event was taking place, I picked up two cellular phones with the intention of returning them to their owners," he wrote. He said he had to rush to a closing ceremony and then to the airport, and ran out of time to return the phones, so he gave them to a driver with instructions to hand them over to desk clerks at the hotel. In the letter, he said U.S. Secret Service agents approached him at the airport asking him to return the BlackBerrys, but he said the agents thanked him for his help when he explained the incident. Participants at summits often are asked to leave their cell phones on a table outside meeting rooms to avoid distractions or as a security measure. David Gewirtz, an expert on e-mail security and author of the book "Where Have All The Emails Gone?" said Friday that the incident shows the vulnerability of U.S. data." The real simple issue is that what's inside the devices could be potentially enormously damaging," he said. "It ranges from simple things like home addresses and phone numbers ... up to things like plans for negotiations we might have with other countries."
While I can believe Rafael had no ill intentions, how in the hell could he pass off that kind of responsibility to his driver?