With the revelation this week that presidential advisor and son-in-law-in-chief Jared Kushner used personal email for government business, jaws dropped everywhere. People were aghast that for all the chants of “lock her up” in response to Hillary Clinton’s use of private email while serving as Secretary of State that anyone in the Trump administration would have the temerity to intentionally commit the same mistake.
Yet despite classified briefings from the National Security Agency immediately after Trump’s inauguration warning Senior White House officials against improperly using personal cell phones and email and risking vulnerability to espionage by Russia, China, Iran and other hacking opportunists, Kushner and other top aides nonetheless continued to discuss government business on personal devices.
The NSA briefings were considered so sensitive that they were held in the secure White House Situation Room. Officials with knowledge of the discussions said that aides were told that they should assume that their personal email systems had already been compromised by foreign cyberspies who may now have access to the contents of not just their own electronic devices but those of their contacts as well. According to an article on Politico:
“The NSA briefers explained that cyberspies could be using sophisticated malware to turn the personal cellphones of White House aides into clandestine listening devices, to take photos and video without the user’s knowledge and to transfer vast amounts of data via Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth, according to one former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the briefings.”
While many have expressed concerns that the administration was using private communications devices and services to evade strict rules on document retention and public disclosure of its internal deliberations, Kushner and other aides have claimed that they forward all non-personal communications received on private devices to their work accounts. The problem with this practice is that, if their personal devices are already compromised, this could give hackers relatively easy access to their work computers and email as well.
Richard Clarke, a top security advisor to three former presidents said:
“Jared is probably one of the top five or 10 targets in the U.S. government because of his access to the president and because of the portfolios he’s been given. It’s a pretty safe bet that his personal devices have been compromised by foreign intelligence services. And therefore there is some risk that meetings he attends are compromised too.”
With Kushner’s portfolio including China, Syria, Afghanistan, Middle East peace, innovation, infrastructure and other issues, the enormity of the potential security breach becomes painfully clear. The level of responsibility given to a nepotistic appointee, with zero government experience, who never had to undergo a Senate confirmation hearing as formal cabinet nominees do, is unprecedented and has placed the country at enormous risk. Given the accusations of collusion with Russia during the election, a lack of concern over cyber-security can only add to the suspicions that the only people Jared Kushner is hiding information from
The level of responsibility given to a nepotistic appointee with zero government experience, who never had to undergo a Senate confirmation hearing as formal cabinet nominees do, is unprecedented and has placed the country at enormous risk. Given the accusations of collusion with Russia during the election, a lack of concern over cyber-security can only add to the suspicions that the only people Jared Kushner is hiding information from are special prosecutor Robert Mueller and the portion of the American public without hacking skills.