Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Phone Security Is A Terrifying Joke

Donald Trump famously calls his Mar-a-Lago resort (which has doubled its fees to $200,000 a year since he's been elected president) the Winter White House. But a recent set of incidents around his weekend there with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe show why we should be terrified that that's the case. Let's set aside, for the moment, the blatant sale of access to the president. You'll recall that Trump and his surrogates were fond of attacking Hillary Clinton for meeting with people who donated money to the Clinton Foundation, which fought AIDS. What's truly concerning about the visit were the numerous violations of basic principles of information and indeed national security. Mar-a-Lago member Richard DeAgazio posted a series of Facebook pictures hobnobbing with de facto President Steve Bannon and near President Trump. He also posted an image of the man carrying the nuclear football, which contains all the launch codes necessary to end the world, along with the man's name.
That's naturally a huge problem, because foreign powers are now able to identify the person that (hopefully) used to carry the launch codes. In a doomsday scenario, this person could have been taken out by a foreign power, using the confusion to then launch a nuclear first strike. That's an insane thing to say, but so is posting this image on Facebook. DeAgazio deleted his account following a conversation with the Washington Post. The hits don't stop there. CNN reports that Trump and Abe were at dinner when news broke that North Korea had conducted a missile test. "As Mar-a-Lago's wealthy members looked on from their tables, and with a keyboard player crooning in the background, Trump and Abe's evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners, who described it in detail to CNN." That strategy session was conducted in somewhat dim light, so Trump had aides illuminate the documents he and Abe were reviewing using smartphone cameras. Richard DeAgazio, apparently not a Kremlin asset, helpfully posted more photos.
This is a problem, because unsecure phones present a gigantic security risk. Should their phones have been hacked, which is a paranoid but necessary assumption, whomever had done the hacking would be able to read classified material helpfully illuminated by their phone flashlights. We will stop short of calling it malicious and settle for monumentally stupid. Most likely nothing too serious was being discussed; these missile tests happen fairly regularly and Trump and Abe were probably reviewing a joint statement. But we don't know that, and it's still bad policy. Just like leaving the key in a locked evidence bag while non-cleared people are present is bad policy. The president always travels with a SCIFF, which is a mobile situation room that can be set up to secure an area about the size of a hotel room. Trump's team claims he utilized the SCIFF before dinner to consult about the missile launch, but he conducted a discussion about pressing national security matters in public where any paying member or waiter could see. Either he's performing the presidency or doesn't understand why the lack of operational security is a problem. That's concerning at minimum, terrifying at maximum.

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