After unnamed sources reported President Trump was again heavily using his personal cell phone, possibly an unsecured Android, two Democratic lawmakers are asking the Secret Service, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) what steps are being taken to ensure that the president's communications are secure.
“While cybersecurity is a universal concern, the President of the United States stands alone as the single-most valuable intelligence target on the planet,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., wrote in a Wednesday letter. “Given the apparent lack of progress the Administration has made since initial reports in 2016 of the President's poor operational security, it appears the only thing standing between the Office of the President and the next national security nightmare is a combination of President Trump's personal restraint and sheer luck.”
Noting well-documented mobile security vulnerabilities like the SS7 flaw that “allows foreign governments and malicious actors to use the architecture of our cell phone networks to intercept calls and SMS messages if they simply know a person's cell phone number,” the duo said U.S. “national security should not depend on whether the president clicks on a malicious link on Twitter or his text application, or the fortuity of foreign agencies not knowing his personal cell number.”
After it came to light that the smartphone of White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly was hacked by possible foreign operatives, the Secret Service put the kibosh on personal devices in the West Wing last fall. Kelly's personal phone was hacked, possibly as long ago as December 2016, and, the chief of staff, who typically used his government-issued phone, switched personal devices.
Former DNI James Clapper recently called the president's use of his personal phone a “goldmine of intelligence,”
Trump's reported increased use of his personal phone to interact with his advisers outside of the administration and governments, prompted Lieu and Gallego to demand answers, pointing out that former DNI James Clapper recently called the president's use of his personal phone a “goldmine of intelligence.”
The two asked the WHCA if it was aware of the reports and whether Trump was tweeting from a properly vetted secure device – the Blackberry used by President Barack Obama “was modified to disallow text messages, which the WHCA recognized could pose a national security threat if a malicious link was inadvertently clicked,” they wrote, asking also how frequently the operating system on Trump's phone is updated and whether the president's communications are encrypted.
“How has WHCA adapted to the growing threat of “Stingray” devices, or IMSI catchers, in Washington D.C., especially given the President's alleged proclivity for making outgoing voice calls on his personal cell phone?” they asked. “After the President travels abroad, is his personal phone screened in accordance with proper procedures to ensure that it has not been compromised by foreign intelligence services or other parties?”
Lieu and Gallego also queried the Secret Service as to the measures being taken “to ensure the President's personal physical security is not comprised, either by geolocation tracking or other means.”
The two asked the ODNI how it had coordinated with “relevant” U.S. agencies and groups to prevent the leakage of classified information and to provide details on any review it may have done on the threats posed by Trump using an unsecured Android.
“When the President receives a classified briefing, does he follow security procedures and leave his personal cell phone outside the secured briefing room?” they asked.