The White House has imposed a ban on personal cell phones for employees and visitors in the West Wing, which houses the offices of the US President, citing “security and integrity” concerns.
Both the staffers and guests will have to hand over their personal mobile devices to security before entering the West Wing of the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Thursday. It remains unclear whether the new rule will affect the US president Donald Trump himself, or he’ll be an exempt from it.
“The security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House is a top priority for the Trump administration and therefore starting next week the use of all personal devices for both guests and staff will no longer be allowed in the West Wing,” said Sanders.
The White House staffers will be still allowed to use “their government-issued devices and continue working hard on behalf of the American people,” she added. While President Trump has repeatedly complained about the unauthorized disclosures to press since assuming office, the ban was “not about leaks,” Sanders pointed out.
The idea to limit the usage of mobile phones for the White House staffers was first floated in early 2017. Last February, then-press secretary of the US president Sean Spicer reportedly engaged in checking both personal and government-issued mobile devises of the staffers, in order to determine the source of the leaks. Spicer also warned White House employees against using message-encrypting apps which delete data upon sending it, naming it a violation of the Presidential Records Act. The legislation, adopted in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, mandates the preservation of all sorts of presidential documents.
The push for an outright ban on the mobile phones has been reportedly spearheaded by the White House chief of staff John Kelly. The former Marine general himself was reportedly a victim of an unsecure cellphone. Back in October, Politico published a report suggesting that Kelly’s mobile device has been compromised as early as December 2016, citing White House IT specialists. It remained unclear, though, whether the alleged hack of Kelly’s phone had led to breach of any sensitive data.