Trump's cellphone diplomacy raises security concerns

Claudine Rigal
Mai 31, 2017

"He is anxious, his aides say, that he will not be able to keep his Android phone once he gets to the White House and wonders aloud how isolated he will become - and whether he will be able to keep in touch with his friends - without it as president", the newspaper reported at the time. Trump called the trip a "big success", but looking at many of his meetings with world leaders, and their reactions to the trip after the fact, it's a little more complicated, and every new complication is something Trump desperately doesn't need right now. Trump is at the risk of being eavesdropped even when using government-issued cellphone.

Trump has given his number to the leaders of Canada, France and Mexico, but so far only Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has used the number, according to the report.

The President's own son-in-law, White House senior staffer Jared Kushner, is under Federal Bureau of Investigation scrutiny for his alleged attempts to open a secret communication channel with the Kremlin.

"If you are speaking on an open line, then it's an open line, meaning those who have the ability to monitor those conversations are doing so", Derek Chollet, a former National Security Council official, told the AP.

The practice has raised concerns over the security of the President's communications, with highly orchestrated diplomatic calls generally taking place on secure phone lines, such as those in the White House Situation Room, the Oval Office or the presidential limousine.

While it is a common practice for people to call one another on their cellphones, calls between world leaders are a carefully managed ordeal.

"If someone is trying to spy on you, then everything you're saying, you have to presume that others are listening to it", Chollet said.

Trump has been in a tight spot when it comes to keeping his conversations with world leaders private. The Presidential Records Act of 1981, passed in response to the Watergate scandal, requires that the president and his staff preserve all records related to the office. Numerous functions on Obama's BlackBerry were blocked, and a very small handful of people had his phone number or email address, according to former aides. A tense, overly long, white knuckled handshake shared by the newly sworn in French president and his American counterpart kept the media buzzing.

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