But His iPhone!

No evidence has ever emerged that Hillary Clinton’s private email server was breached by hackers but the Intelligence Community still thought it possible that a breach had occurred. Either way, it was considered an unacceptable risk. In a draft version of his eventual statement on Clinton’s behavior, then FBI Director James Comey called her “grossly negligent.” His actual statement softened that to “extremely careless.”

Donald Trump and the Republicans made as much political use of those findings as they could, and I’d argue that it was one of their more effective lines of attack. As for as actual substance, the argument was that Clinton couldn’t be trusted to properly safeguard classified information and therefore her presidency would present an unacceptable risk to national security. Of course, there was the additional charge that she had improperly deleted emails that belonged to the government and the people, but it was really her decision to have a private email server in the first place that raised legitimate questions about her judgment.

Democrats are still angry at Comey for interjecting his commentary into a decision not to charge Clinton with a crime that was made by the Department of Justice rather than the FBI. And, of course, Comey famously announced a reopening of the case in the last days of the election, which corresponded with a (perhaps fatal) drop of support for Clinton in the polls. But there always was a legitimate concern underlying all the posturing and politics. Even Clinton agreed that she had made an error in judgment with her private email server.

If it was fair to criticize Clinton, it is certainly fair to hold President Trump to the same standard when it comes to protecting national security secrets, and that’s why people are upset about the way he uses his phones.

Trump’s call-capable cellphone has a camera and microphone, unlike the White House-issued cellphones used by Obama. Keeping those components creates a risk that hackers could use them to access the phone and monitor the president’s movements.

The president should not be carrying around a phone with either a camera or a microphone because both can be remotely activated without detection by hackers. This is probably the worst security risk he’s creating with his phones, but it’s made worse by his reluctance to follow basic protocols.

President Donald Trump uses a White House cellphone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials — a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance…

…While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was “too inconvenient,” the same administration official said.

The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump’s call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.

Hillary Clinton copped to the fact that she let a desire for convenience cloud her judgment. She took responsibility for this and apologized. Trump should follow her example but we all know that he won’t.

Trump’s reluctance to submit to White House security protocols that would limit his ability to tweet or contact friends freely is a case of the president’s personal peculiarities colliding with the demands of his office — a tension created in part because of society’s growing attachment to mobile technology over the past decade.

Unlike Clinton’s email server that was theoretically a well-guarded secret, everyone knows that Trump has a phone. If it isn’t secure, it has been hacked.

Former national security officials are virtually unanimous in their agreement about the dangers posed by cellphones, which are vulnerable to hacking by domestic and foreign actors who would want to listen in on the president’s conversations or monitor his movements.

“Foreign adversaries seeking intelligence about the U.S. are relentless in their pursuit of vulnerabilities in our government’s communications networks, and there is no more sought-after intelligence target than the president of the United States,” said Nate Jones, former director of counterterrorism on the National Security Council in the Obama administration and the founder of Culper Partners, a consulting firm.

I know that the hypocrisy here is staggering, but the truth is that Democrats always downplayed the problems Hillary Clinton created with her behavior. Trump should follow the best advice he can get about how to use his phones in a secure way. He should do this not to avoid being a hypocrite but because it’s his responsibility to do it.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.