According to multiple sources inside and outside the White House, President Trump is increasing ditching government protocol and approved communication methods to use his cell phone instead to contact his outside White House cronies keeping John Kelly, White House’s Chief of Staff, out of the loop.
According to CNN reporter Pamela Brown, the President is increasingly making private calls on his cell phone rather through the White House switchboard raising serious doubts about White House Chief of Staff’s ability to manage access to the President and a potential security risk for the president’s private communications.
When White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, came on board, many believed he would put a leash and impose order on the president’s information flow. This detail suggests that those efforts, although possibly initially successful, have failed.
“John used to be the gatekeeper that he is now from a Hill standpoint,” a source reveals, adding that individuals and groups would typically call John’s office if they wanted to see or speak to the president rather than dial him directly. The walls are breaking, John’s status as a gatekeeper for the President is diminishing. Another source close to White House revealed that “a lot of meetings, a lot of things have happened lately without John being in the room.”
President number 44, Barack Obama was allowed to use a Blackberry during his presidency. However, Intelligence says that by the time Obama was given the device, it was fitted with enhanced security to encrypt potential classified talks. The former head of the Justice Department, National Security division, Mary McCord, agrees smartphones are well-known for security vulnerabilities.
Coincidentally, the vulnerability of Trump’s cell phone is real, and it coincides with a persistent threat that has been identified this month around the nation’s capital. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed unauthorized cell-site simulators, IMSI catchers or Stingrays have been spotted around the Capital, Washington, D.C. The briefcase size devices, which cost between $1,000 to about $200,000 masquerade as real phone mast that tracks people’s locations and possibly eavesdrops on calls and texts.
They represent a real security concern; the security agency insists. And whoever is operating them in the Capital is, we are told, a mystery to Uncle Sam’s boys on duty. Carol, a marketing executive from Cryptophone company, drove around Washington looking for the IMSI catchers in 2014 and she reported she found 18 in less than two days. A map released by the Washington Post showed the areas under surveillance were clustered around government buildings and institutions such as the White House and the Capitol.
▪️NSA warned WH in Jan 2017 that cyberspies could be using malware to turn personal devices into listening devices.https://t.co/jaVMYOofXu
▪️WH tech support discovered in summer 2017 that John Kelly's personal cell phone had been compromised.https://t.co/mXA7IWD0lI#maddow https://t.co/IqJfyvdyS8
— Polly Sigh (@dcpoll) April 23, 2018
The APNewsBreak reports,
“the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the nation’s airwaves, formed a taskforce tasked on the subject four years ago, but it never submitted a report and no longer meets regularly.”
Foreign governments and hackers would love to spy on the President’s private conversations. Although White House can make sure personal gadgets are encrypted, Brown says it was not clear whether those measures were followed in the case of President Trump’s cell.
Subsequently, previous evidence found Trump being guilty of using an unsecured phone while in office. Another implication of Trump’s private phone use as noted by Cunningham is the possibility of not capturing Trump’s conversations for government accountability and history.
Image courtesy of Shealah Craighead via Flickr