During last year's presidential campaign, Americans were led to believe Hillary Clinton's email server protocols were the single most important issue in the nation. To hear Republicans tell it, the former Secretary of State committed a grave offense with her server, putting U.S. national security at risk.Donald Trump never really understood the controversy, but he was nevertheless eager to attack his opponent, and during the first presidential debate in the fall, the Republican vowed to get "very tough on cyber
." He quickly added, "I have a son. He's 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it's unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it's hardly doable."Four months later, I still don't know what Trump was trying to say.Regardless, the president has gone on to describe himself as some kind of visionary on matters of technology security. In a pre-inauguration press conference, Trump said he deserved credit
for the RNC's cyber-security measures because, as he put it, Trump believes he told the national party to create a "strong hacking defense" and they took his advice. (There's no evidence such a conversation ever took place.)Now that he's in office, however, the president seems to have adopted a surprisingly lax attitude when it comes to the "cyber." CNN reported
yesterday, for example, on what happened at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort on Saturday night when officials first learned about North Korea launching an intermediate-range ballistic missile.
Sitting alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he'd spent most of the day golfing, Trump took the call on a mobile phone at his table, which was set squarely in the middle of the private club's dining area.As Mar-a-Lago's wealthy members looked on from their tables, and with a keyboard player crooning in the background, Trump and Abe's evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners, who described it in detail to CNN.... The patio was lit only with candles and moonlight, so aides used the camera lights on their phones to help the stone-faced Trump and Abe read through the documents.
A variety of wealthy club members -- civilians, none of whom has any kind of security clearance -- snapped photos
of the high-level gathering and published them via social media.Apparently, it took a while for the president to realize he might want to discuss North Korea's ballistic missile launch with his aides in private. Instead, the heads of state from two of the world's most dominant countries read sensitive national-security materials in the middle of a resort dining hall, not far from wait staff and assorted diners taking pictures, relying on lights from aides' phones.Indeed, CNN's report added that waiters "cleared the wedge salads and brought along the main course as Trump and Abe continued consulting with aides."This wasn't the first such incident. The Washington Post reported
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.
Of course, there's also the matter of the president's unsecured smart phone
.Maybe -- just maybe -- Republican apoplexy about Clinton's email server protocols was insincere? Perhaps Trump and his backers aren't as interested in these security issues as they claimed?