Dec 22, 2014 · 1 minute

Boeing has tapped BlackBerry to help develop a smartphone meant for workers in the defense and security industries. The companies didn't reveal what part of the phone, which is called the Boeing Black, would be developed by the beleaguered manufacturer.

It's an interesting choice. BlackBerry has long been lauded for its security features -- there was a time when anyone working in a sensitive field had a BlackBerry device nestled in their belt clip. But is it still secure enough for Boeing's target audience?

A report from Der Spiegel based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden suggests Boeing might have been better off with another partner. The report claims the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have teams devoted to cracking the Berry.

The team's efforts were initially met with futility, according to the report, but eventually the world's top intelligence agencies were able to break through BlackBerry's security. According to the report, agents could eventually read text messages, collect emails, and gather "voice telephony" data from BlackBerry devices, after years of dedicated efforts.

But that hasn't stopped President Obama from using a BlackBerry device, supposedly because he isn't allowed to use an iPhone for "security purposes." Maybe this is because BlackBerry has upped its security; maybe, as Der Spiegel wonders in its report, it's because the NSA believes it's the only agency capable of compromising the products.

Either way, it's strange there was no mention of Der Spiegel's report in much of the coverage of today's announcement, and Boeing's willingness to partner with BlackBerry on a smartphone built for spies raises a few questions: are we unaware of BlackBerry's security? Were there no other options? Is Black supposed to be vulnerable to the NSA?

Given the device's intended audience, we're unlikely to ever know.

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pando]