Several months ago the White House floated a trial balloon about banning the use of personal cell phones by staffers in the West Wing due to security concerns. You may remember that John Kelly was using his personal cell phone for government business and it was owned by hackers for six months before he figured out he had been hacked.
This week the White House said it plans to implement this ban – not only for staffers, but also for guests. One assumes this does not include the Tweeter-in-Chief, who uses his old, non-secure personal cell phone to tweet. Perhaps the White House has figured out how to create security patches for President Trump’s old cell phone (I believe it is running Android 4.x; the current version being 7 with 8 in testing).
This generates way too many questions.
Sarah Sanders said, basically, that the White House technology infrastructure is too fragile to handle all these wireless phones. She did not point to trying to stop staff from using those phones to leak info to the media. Given that places like Mile High Stadium can support 70,000 plus wireless users during a Broncos game, maybe the White House needs to talk to the Broncos to figure out how to support less than 500 users.
A White House official also said that personal cell phones are not as secure as government issued ones. Possibly true, but no guarantee. Remember, this is not about using personal phones for government business, but rather using personal phones for personal business. Which brings up another issue. If staffers are required to use government phones during the day, will there be a change in the law to accommodate them using their government phones for non government business like coordinating day care or communicating with a spouse or other family members? Will those conversations somehow be filtered out from FOIA requests and government archive requirements. Those sound like a challenge to me.
They said that staffers could use their government issued phones for government business. I don’t think government business includes talking to their spouses, children or parents. People run their lives off their cell phones.
They also said that guests cannot use their personal cell phones. I guess they expect guests to go radio silent since they likely do not have government issued cell phones.
Apparently, this ban does NOT include the press. Interesting.
It is an interesting problem and given that John Kelly may have been broadcasting sensitive information to hackers or the Chinese for half a year, it is a real problem.
Soldiers who work in places like the Pentagon are used to not having access to cell phones. Now people who work in the White House will have to deal with similar issues.
The government has been challenged for a while to hire the best and the brightest. Long hours, low pay, the uncertainty of promotions all compare unfavorably to the private sector. Government agencies are already feeling this brain drain. Adding tech restrictions certainly won’t help recruitment.
It is important to understand that the final rules aren’t out yet, so stay tuned for details next week.
Life does not always have neat, clean answers.
Information for this post came from Fox News.