REPS LIEU AND GALLEGO CALL FOR CLARITY ON PRESIDENT'S PERSONAL CELL PHONE USE

April 25, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) sent a letter to the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), U.S. Secret Service and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) urging their office heads to clarify steps the White House is taking to ensure the President’s communications are protected. The letter seeks answers related to reports that the President still uses an unsecured phone, leaving him vulnerable to cyber attacks and spying by adversaries.

In the letter, the Members write:

  • While cybersecurity is a universal concern, the President of the United States stands alone as the single-most valuable intelligence target on the planet. Given the apparent lack of progress the Administration has made since initial reports in 2016 of the President’s poor operational security, it appears the only thing standing between the Office of the President and the next national security nightmare is a combination of President Trump’s personal restraint and sheer luck.Our national security should not depend on whether the President clicks on a malicious link on Twitter or his text application, or the fortuity of foreign agencies not knowing his personal cell number.
  • Mobile security vulnerabilities are well-documented. In particular, the Signaling System 7 vulnerability (SS7) allows foreign governments and malicious actors to use the architecture of our cell phone networks to intercept calls and SMS messages if they simply know a person's cell phone number. Foreign agencies can also intercept cell phone calls and text messages if they are monitoring the unsecure cell phones of people that the President calls. Additionally, malware such as Pegasus can provide access to a phone’s microphone and camera even while the phone is not being used.
  • These vulnerabilities are just some of the reasons that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently called President Trump’s use of a personal cell phone a “goldmine of intelligence." Hostile foreign intelligence agencies routinely attempt to breach White House communications operations, and the President is effectively handing them the keys to the office.
  • The American people deserve to know whether steps are being taken to prevent the President’s personal phone from jeopardizing his own safety, the integrity of the Office, and critical national security information. We request that you answer the following questions as indicated below?

White House Communications Agency (WHCA)

  • Is the WHCA aware of reports indicating the President is using an unsecured Android phone, as referenced above?

  • President Barack Obama’s Blackberry was modified to disallow text messages, which the WHCA recognized could pose a national security threat if a malicious link was inadvertently clicked. Is President Trump tweeting from a secure device that has been properly vetted by the WHCA to account for basic threats like spearfishing?

  • Is the Trump administration following proper protocols to ensure the President’s personal phone does not connect to open and vulnerable wireless networks, either in Washington D.C. or at his other residences, or when he travels to other locations?

  • How frequently does the WHCA update the President’s phone’s operating system?

  • Does the President use encryption when he makes phone calls or texts from his personal cell phone?

  • How has WHCA adapted to the growing threat of “Stingray” devices, or IMSI catchers, in Washington D.C., especially given the President’s alleged proclivity for making outgoing voice calls on his personal cell phone?
  • Before the President travels abroad, is his personal phone serviced by WHCA and/or relevant Intelligence Community organizations to ensure it has robust technical defenses against intrusion or foreign intelligence collection efforts?
  • After the President travels abroad, is his personal phone screened in accordance with proper procedures to ensure that it has not been compromised by foreign intelligence services or other parties?

U.S. Secret Service

  • Is the U.S. Secret Service aware of reports indicating the President is using an unsecured Android phone, as referenced above?

  • Given the unique threats posed by POTUS’ alleged use of a personal cell phone, what steps is the U.S. Secret Service currently taking to ensure the President’s personal physical security is not comprised, either by geolocation tracking or other means?

Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)

  • Is ODNI leadership aware of reports indicating the President of the United States frequently uses an unsecured Android device?
  • How has ODNI coordinated with relevant USG agencies and entities to prevent classified information from leaking via the President’s unsecured Android phone?

  • Has ODNI conducted a review of threats posed by the President’s unsecured Android device?

  • If so, have recommendations been made to relevant USG entities following such a review?

  • Has the WHCA met with or discussed with ODNI staff possible solutions to the threat of foreign intelligence gathering via a compromised phone?

  • When the President receives a classified briefing, does he follow security procedures and leave his personal cell phone outside the secured briefing room?

READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER HERE