Edition: 031517 – Words: 1284 – Audio: 09:44
I know it plays into the hands of the Trump supporters that all those unauthorized White House leaks are the result of all the Deep State liberal spies and saboteurs left in Hillary’s State Department and the Obama AG appointees around the country, but, sorry, it ain’t all that. Some of this is actually normal.
First off, it’s pretty much understood that all administrations have had leaks for one reason or another. The one’s who seem to worry the most are typically the paranoid one’s, like the Nixon and Trump administrations, who fear spies around every corner to the point that they keep an enemies list. I understand that President Obama was a little unique in handling the leak issue under his administration in that he actually tried to hunt and prosecute the more flagrant abuses (I do not know how successful he was, but that’s not really the point). Recently, Press Secretary Sean Spicer grabbed everyone’s cell phones and physically checked them for “clandestine calls”, or some such nonsense (of course, he didn’t find any irregularities, apparently).
Let’s try some common sense here. When we think of White House leaks we pull out some Hollywood imagery of midnight meetings and secret rendezvous of individuals wearing trenchcoats under a street lamps… Deep Throat kinda stuff. Well, likely this has been true, although it’s much easier to communicate to spill the beans in other less secretive ways. When it’s not an intentional (authorized) leak (which happens a lot to test the waters on an idea before it get public), sometimes it’s as simple as a sitting president or administration officials getting too talkative in an interview or a press conference. But more often than not, it’s generally rank-in-file folks, and less about a traitor in the inner circle.
People give up secrets for many different reasons.. and most are mostly uninspiring (not like they are all spying for the Russian Embassy or something). People typically leak to the press because somehow that’s not perceived as being “traitorous”. Some folks might want to brag about their jobs and positions inside government, some do indeed have political motivations, some might want money, their five minutes of fame, the list is endless. But the whole point is that leaks are a fact of life so you combat them in the ways you can.
One easy way is to reduce or eliminate a specific reason for a person to leak. For example, with any job, a boss or manager should get familiar with the work habits and personal lives (to the extent offered by the employee) and if there’s work issues it’s usually a sign of home problems… and sometimes that could be financial problems. Eliminate the need for the employee to feel they might have to go to extremes to make ends meet… like selling secrets. In other words, you retain a measure of employee loyalty if you simply show some respect. I could go on here with security suggestions but most of this is simple workplace relationships. But there is one other thing I recently saw in a photo that has made me question whether some common sense things have been overlooked to control White House leaks.
Remember Kellyanne’s recent “Couchgate” photo? There were a couple things that struck me about it.. other than Kellyanne herself being totally inappropriate… but that’s a whole other story. Why is she using a smartphone to take a pic inside the Oval Office when it’s very obvious the White House photographer was apparently present to take a shot at her? Let me explain my concern here. It would seem to me that the simplest and easiest first level leak prevention process would be.. NO cell phones in the Oval Office. Why? Well, first off, out of respect for the president. He’s a busy guy and doesn’t have time for you to fiddle with your phone. Besides that, if you were invited into his office then that in itself is a privilege.
Second, we all know the inherent security weaknesses with cell phones, especially smart phones. You can turn the cameras and voice on and off remotely, eavesdrop on transmissions to and from, intercept text messages, retrieve data and phone information, etc. Why does she even have that thing in that office?
Let’s carry this further. She has just taken a pic of the group, obviously with the knowledge of the President standing right there. If the person who took the photo of her taking a photo is indeed the White House photographer, who was allowed in at that moment and thus opened the opportunity for Kellyanne to take her pic at the same time… you might think that would be ok. BUT.. the White House photographer might be allowed to take photos when opportunities arise, he is NOT authorized to release his photos until they have been reviewed (for various reasons, some not security… unflattering expressions, etc.). What is Kellyanne doing with the pic she just took? Where is that pic going?? More to the point… where might that pic be going unknown to her?
Ok.. you might be ready to suggest… Dougie-boy, the inner circle obviously have special secure phones, like Obama’s super-secure Blackberry. From what I understand this is true to some measure; special secure smart phones. Alright, then I still go back to my question… what’s Kellyanne doing with a pic, that obviously will not pass review for release? She planning on sending that pic to another secure phone or a public smartphone of a friend? Here’s another thought, why are there even activated cameras on secure smart phones anyway? That means they are also video capable, not to mention audio recording devices. I mean, jeez.. this all seems a bit nuts to me. You would think the White House could get the staff specialized government phones that have non-essential features deactivated. Why the hell does a staff person need a smart phone camera?? You make and receive calls and text.. bingo.. that’s it! This isn’t high school (in spite of Kellyanne looking the age sitting there and playing with her phone).
There are like 30 people in that office depicted in the photo. I surely hope each and every one surrendered their smart phone when they went in there.
Keep in mind here… this is all assuming the person taking the photo of Kellyanne is indeed the official White House photographer and not another passive person with a phone, sitting with their legs up on a chair.
[Special Note: If Spicer checked everyone’s phones, and these were special, secure, government phones, wouldn’t an obvious measure be password protection in the event the phone was left laying around or lost? If they were password protected, how did Spicer get into the phones to check anything? Can we assume Spicer was there with the phone’s owner so they could log in? What about checking erased and deleted pics, video, and messages; Spicer himself could not readily have checked that.]
Yeah, those photos revealed Kellyanne being less than professional, but they revealed a lot more to me. If Trump is paranoid about political spies and leaks he certainly can do some obvious things to try and help secure the Oval Office. But this whole phone thing raises many, many questions about phone security inside the White House.
On the other hand, there are probably far more important things to worry about coming from the Oval Office than unintended leaks.
Carry on, America.