Some of the general weirdness surrounding Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Mar-a-Lago over the weekend is just now coming out. And I’m not talking about the handshake. Which was bad enough.
For starters, on Saturday one of the guests took photos of the aide who carries the nuclear codes and posted them on Facebook. I assume those aides have been photographed before. But we also learned his name is “Rick.”
But then, as the SCROTUS (So-called Ruler of the United States; I can’t take credit for that, alas) and the Prime Minister were dining on the terrace among the paying guests, word got to them that North Korea had test-fired a ballistic missile. So the very not-secure table on the terrace turned into a situation room, with aides using cell phone “flashlight” functions to light papers on the table.
And were those secure cell phones? A good hacker could have been filming the whole conference.
And the same fellow who had photographed the aide then took photos of the conference, some just a few feet away, and posted those on Facebook, and it appears Instagram as well.
Also, many people reported that while this conference was going on, they were eating iceberg wedge salads, probably with blue cheese dressing. How déclassée.
Then, after a hastily assembled press conference about North Korea, the SCROTUS crashed a wedding reception, with the Prime Minister of Japan in tow. Trump then turned his back on the PM (while calling him “Shinzo) to schmooze with the wedded couple and their families, who turned out to be big-time Trump donors. This would be boorish behavior if the “Shinzo” were his cousin visiting from Chicago, never mind a visiting head of state.
I hope Shinzo has a sense of humor.
This seems to be part of a pattern, though. The SCOTUS has no interest in security protocols, apparently. Never mind manners.
Earlier in the week, Trump had been criticized for leaving intelligence documents vulnerable to people without security clearance. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) noticed that the president kept the key in a secured bag while hosting people in the Oval Office, which is a bit like leaving your house keys in your front door while you’re having a party in your backyard. There’s no indication that anyone saw anything confidential in this incident, but this, Heinrich suggested, was “Classified 101.”
Compared to holding a national security conversation over dinner in the public dining room at his private club, though, the lockbag incident pales.
This article goes on to explain how risky the conference on the terrace was, especially with all those cell phones providing reading light, and people with no security clearance whatsoever a few feet away. And it also mentions this:
Close observers of the 2016 election will remember that, on occasion, President Trump liked to draw attention to his opponent’s security practices as a way of criticism. There was, you may recall, something about an email server.
“Hillary Clinton … sent classified information, even during her travels overseas, jeopardizing the national security of the American people by allowing her emails to be hacked by foreign intelligence services,” Trump’s campaign website declared. But it wasn’t just Clinton who was the target of his criticism: The Democratic National Committee got hacked because it didn’t have a “very strong defense system against hacking” the way the Republicans did (as he said during a cybersecurity session on Jan. 31). The government was hacked by China because “we’re run by people that don’t know what they’re doing” (as said in his Jan. 11 news conference). Trump, the idea went, would not be so naive on the critical subject of national security.
Perhaps it’s harder than it looks.
People who can’t be bothered to take care of details, like picking up your own socks, or taking care that you don’t leave sensitive documents in an unlocked briefcase, are what we call slobs.
Update: Charles Pierce writes of the social media photograph”
This is just the most amazing picture ever. The classified information on the screen of an open cellphone. The aides using the flashlights of their own phones to help the president*—and the waitstaff—read the classified material. Shinzo Abe sitting there and wondering what he’s gotten himself into.
Every editor who assigned a story about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s secret server and the e-mails should immediately consider moving to a monastery on a mountainside in Albania and engage in ritual purification of the body until they get further instructions.