by Doctor Science
This is not a drill, and I am not speaking rhetorically. I think the evidence shows that, at the White House level, the United States has *no* functioning national security, as the national security and intelligence communities understand it.
Most of the talk, as in the previous post, about the growing conflict between Trump and NS/IC is about Trump and his associates' ties to Russia, and the extent to which they may be acting as Russian assets.
This is obviously a very serious charge that has to be investigated, post-haste. But a lot of us have been screaming our fool heads off about this for *months* without NS/IC going this far, so why now? What took them this long?
I wonder if the reason this has broken out now was the apparent use of the Mar-a-Lago terrace as a Situation Room. At Mar-a-Lago Trump and his staff showed themselves incapable of acting as part of a national security system. The whole intelligence community, the national security apparatus, and the military now saw, publicly, that classified or sensitive material given to the Trump White House will not be treated as such. It's not as specific as "this particular person is compromised by Russia", it's a general failure to acknowledge that national security issues have special significance.
I'm cutting here because this post is long and has embedded tweets and other slow-down factors.
Last weekend, Trump had invited the Prime Minister of Japan down to Mar-a-Lago for golf and a dinner. Not a State Dinner, at the White House or Camp David or even the Truman "Little White House" in Key West, but a dinner in full view of the other diners, at a table on the terrace at Mar-a-Lago. The official residences are staffed by government employees, and I gather the waiters are normally from the armed services.
At Mar-a-Lago, the staff is paid by the Trump Corporation, and the waiters are foreign workers (because the wages are so low). Mar-a-Lago, of course, will charge the government for the food, service, lodging, etc., no doubt at a tidy profit.
CNN reported that just before 6:00 Eastern Time Saturday evening, North Korea unexpectedly launched a new ballistic missile. White House spokesman Sean Spicer claims that Trump was briefed in a secure SCIF before dinner, like this one:
When we were on the road, national security discussions and head of state phone calls were conducted in a private, secure location set up onsite. Everyone had to leave their Blackberry outside the area. In this photo, which was taken in March 2011 and subsequently released, the President holds a discussion in El Salvador following a conference call with his full national security team.
Trump apparently tweeted from Android at 6:34pm, just before going in to dinner, so there was time for a brief meeting in a SCIF, if one was already set up in Mar-a-Lago:
A working dinner tonight with Prime Minister Abe of Japan, and his representatives, at the Winter White House (Mar-a-Lago). Very good talks!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2017
NPR reported about this phone:
"Donald Trump for the longest time has been using a insecure Android phone that by all reports is so easy to compromise, it would not meet the security requirements of a teenager," says Nicholas Weaver, a computer scientist at the University of California at Berkeley.If Trump's phone is indeed a listening device, Russia is not the only suspect, of course: it could be literally any country (or motivated non-state actor, such as an arms dealer or a drug cartel) in the world.
Weaver doesn't have any first-hand knowledge of the security standards on Trump's phone. But he says knowing that a sitting president has an insecure Android, "we must assume that his phone has actively been compromised for a while, and a actively compromised phone is literally a listening device."
Having been briefed, very briefly, in a secure location, Trump and Abe went to their "working dinner" -- in public, on the open-air terrace of Mar-a-Lago, where their pictures were taken by fellow diners, where they could be recorded by anyone with a directional mike on their phone, where waiters on temporary visas worked the tables, where the lighting was so poor that aides had to use their cell phones as flashlights:
The cell phones are where the people I know with classified clearances really started freaking out, because they were perfectly situation to record and transmit everything, if any of them are compromised.
Then there's the staff: hired on short notice, and from overseas. Not to mention the club members--the "initiation fee" doubled from $100K to $200K on January 1--and their guests. Or the random people, like the young woman working for the wedding taking place in another room, who exchanged flirty glances with the man at the big table:
Commenters at Balloon Juice realized that, 20 years from now or so, there could be a hilarious, Blake Edwards-style comedy about the waitstaff at Mar-a-Lago, where it turns out that *everyone* (or everyone with one earnest exception) is a spy, because really, this is too easy. Right now, though, it's brutally horrifying.
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (a man who keeps unfairly dragging down the reputation of slimy weasels) has actually sent a letter to the White House asking for information about what the heck was going on there, no later than Feb. 28th. We shall see what comes out of it.
Even if it turns out no classified or highly sensitive information was being discussed--though, as Chaffetz's letter says, "discussions with foreign leaders regarding international missile tests, and documents used to support those discussions, are presumptively sensitive"--the whole atmosphere and Trump's attitude must be profoundly dismaying to people whose life's work is to take this stuff seriously, because the so-called President clearly does not.
This is why IMextremelyHO (Ret.) Vice-Adm Haward turned down the job of National Security Advisor that Flynn vacated. There *is* no National Security, because the basic premises of the national security system aren't supported by the President and his staff. Some of them (possibly including Trump himself, horribile dictu) are actively cooperating with a foreign power, but all of them are so damn incompetent and careless that it's probable that *several* foreign states or other entities have listening privileges in the WH itself, and in Mar-a-Lago the sky's the limit. And they're going back there today.
Here's another example, that came up while I was working on this post: on Thursday six (6) White House staffers were dismissed for failing the FBI's background checks. In *any* organization that takes national security seriously, the background checks come *before* you start work. I don't know if it's coincidence that so many staffers were dismissed at once, in the middle of this mess, or if someone at the FBI did it on purpose: bunched the dismissals, so they're more likely to be picked up by the news and maybe come to the attention of Republicans in Congress.
I assume that the vast majority of the NS/IC are highly educated white males, and a majority of them did *not* vote for Hillary Clinton (many Trump voters, but I'll bet there are a lot of #NeverTrump voters as well). Thus, we've looking at a prolonged process of buyer's remorse. I am *eager* for people in or associated with this community to give their insights, including telling me I'm full of it.
So before the election, I bet there were a few NS/IC people who knew about Trump-related contacts with Russia, but most didn't--and pretty much everybody, including Trump and Putin, expected Trump to lose, so they were all hoping it didn't really matter. A few people were running around with their hair on fire, but they could be ignored.
During the transition, I'm guessing a lot of NS/IC who had voted for not-Hillary were trying to convince themselves it wouldn't be that bad, really, and were fighting hard against signs that actually, it was going to be worse. But I'm guessing that they were all clinging to that very human hope that the Magic Official Start Date would make it all better or more serious, somehow.
Yeah, that trick never works. Instead, as the weeks went on (only 4 so far! holy smokes & fish hooks, as my dad would say) it became more and more clear that the Trump White House has no respect for the basic principles of national security. But American politics and media is highly partisan and highly polarized, so it's taken some time for these not-Hillary NS/IC voters to realize that they made a horrible mistake and need to do something to fix it.
What they seem to have decided to do is release information in dribbles--possibly as they're gathering it, possibly as deliberate strategy to keep the media constantly on the story. Have they tried giving this info to Republicans in Congress and seen nothing happen? That's pretty much what Rep. Elijah Cummings implied in January, when he said:
You gotta understand that we members of Congress have a lot of information that the public does not have. If the public knew what members of Congress knew ... The information will come out later at some point. Then the public will fully understand.Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee chaired by Insult-to-Weasels Chaffetz, so he knows a *lot* about Republican foot-dragging.
What I don't think the NS/IC boys have said is that US national security has essentially dissolved, on the highest level. Russia cannot be assumed to be the only outside actor that has compromised the WH. Diagnosis is the first step toward treatment.
 "claims" because Spicer's unsupported word should not be believed if he says the sky is blue. He started his tenure lying about what people had seen with their own eyes, and I figure "begin as you mean to go on".
 Wouldn't it be *hilarious* if one of them was among the aides using their phones as flashlights at Mar-a-Lago? The horrified jokes write themselves!