Nguyen Minh Tuan / Flickr T ng th ng Putin khen...
Nguyen Minh Tuan / Flickr

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a troubling study with details about numerous unauthorized cell phone surveillance devices being detected in Washington, D.C.. From the Washington Post:

A Department of Homeland Security program discovered evidence of the surveillance devices, called IMSI catchers, as part of federal testing last year, according to a letter from DHS to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on May 22. The letter didn’t specify what entity operated the devices and left open the possibility that there could be alternative explanations for the suspicious cellular signals collected by the federal testing program last year.

The discovery bolsters years of independent research suggesting that foreign intelligence agencies use sophisticated interception technology to spy on officials working within the hub of federal power in the nation’s capital. Experts in surveillance technology say that IMSI catchers — sometimes known by one popular brand name, StingRay — are a standard part of the tool kit for many foreign intelligence services, including for such geopolitical rivals as Russia and China.

These devices are a danger to everyone in the vicinity. They are capable of getting data such as your cell phone number, device serial number, your recent call log and more. Personal privacy concerns aside, this has very real national security implications, especially in light of this Politico report that Donald Trump refuses to follow security protocols and insists on using his unsecured phones.

The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones — one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites — are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.

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.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has expressed his concerns in a letter to DHS:

“This admission from DHS bolsters my concern about stingrays and other spying devices being used to spy on Americans’ phones,” Wyden said in a statement on Thursday. “Given the reports of rogue spying devices being identified near the White House and other government facilities, I fear that foreign intelligence services could target the president and other senior officials.”

This cannot be emphasized enough—this is a threat to the national security of the United States. Congress should be convening hearings and investigations into this threat immediately. Yesterday. Trump’s continued use of unsecured phones could be a danger to us all. It’s time for Trump to put the country over his selfish, needy, obsessive use of social media and late night chats with sycophants. And given the enormous cost of these devices ($200,000 and up), these aren’t some run-of-the-mill pranksters stealing this data and/or listening in. There is little doubt foreign spy services are behind these devices. That makes it all the more important for Donald Trump and everyone in his administration to strictly follow national security protocols and communicate only on approved devices.

See more in this excellent report from the Washington Post.

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