The Thinker: Rich Galen


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An American Cyber-Column By Rich Galen
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Stiffing a SCIF

Rich Galen

Monday August 13, 2018

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  • A couple of dozen White Nationalists showed up in Washington, DC on Sunday causing the Metro Police, the Secret Service, the Federal Protective Service, and who knows how many other law-enforcement agencies to have spent precious dollars protecting against what might have been a replay of Charlottesville.

  • That it wasn't a repeat is a good thing. And, if we were over-protected well, that's a good thing, too.

  • If someone bought out all the Tiki-torches in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) area and lost their Hawaiian shirt betting they could be re-sold at a big markup? Also, Ok.

  • The counter-protesters vastly outnumbered the hate group. The Washington Post numbered them in the "thousands," but the police kept the two groups physically separated so

  • So, the big news on Sunday was the disclosure on Meet the Press that former senior White House staffer, Omarosa Manigault Newman not only got fired by Chief of Staff John Kelly in the Situation Room, but she had brought her smart phone in with her and taped the conversation.


    As another example of my shallowness, I can never hear Omarosa Minigault Newman's first name without thinking about the levitation charm from the first Harry Potter movie: Wingardium Leviosa.


  • I have been in the White House Situation Room, but not when there was a situation. I was only a visitor.

  • I have, however, been in other SCIFs (Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities) which is a fancy name for a room that is, as explains it, "a secure place where sensitive information can be viewed and discussed to prevent outside surveillance or spying."

  • The inviolable rule about walking into a SCIF (pronounced "skiff") is: Thou shalt not have anything electronic on your person when you enter.

  • There are some exceptions. As a flight attendant once announced: "If it has a battery, and it's not keeping you alive, turn it off."

  • Outside of every SCIF I've ever been in there is a wall of cubby holes or at least a table in or on which you are to leave your cell phone, pager, electric guitar, or Tesla.

  • The point of that is, cell phones are easily hacked and the camera and/or microphone can be turned on remotely by the hackers. If the phone isn't in the room, it can't transmit what is going on in the room.

  • I have never had to walk through any form of detector, nor been patted down before entering a SCIF. I haven't been in that many of them, so I don't know if there are places where one or both are done.

  • I suppose the theory is: If you've got the security clearance to go into the room in the first place, you will be trusted to follow the security rules.

  • If Ms. Manigault Newman knew she was being brought into the Situation Room to be fired, then she must have thought recording the event would serve her in good stead. Kelly's act of firing her was probably not a national security issue.

  • As a four-star Marine Corps General, Chief of Staff Kelly was the commander of Southern Command. The Southern Command website describes its responsibilities thus:
    The U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility encompasses 31 countries and 16 dependencies and areas of special sovereignty. The region represents about one-sixth of the landmass of the world assigned to regional unified commands.

  • Apparently, the White House Situation Room is not included in that landmass as Kelly never thought to ask Manigault Newman whether or not she had a recording device.

  • She did.

  • What Chuck Todd played on MTP doesn't appear to change much. Kelly was trying to get her out of the White House with a minimum of drama, but that didn't work out very well. At one point, Kelly tells her, in effect, if she leaves quietly she can state that she served the American people during her year in the White House

  • Manigault Newman claims there was a implied or explicit threat: "Keep your mouth shut, or else."

  • We're about to find out if there is an "or else" and if so, what it is.

  • Keep in mind, that Ms. Manigault Newman has a book coming out tomorrow: "Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House" $24.99 on Amazon.

  • I'm not buying it. In fact, I'm not buying any of it.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the CNN coverage of the demonstrations in DC yesterday, to a clip of the first Harry Potter movie, to the Wikipedia page on SCIFs, and to the Meet the Press segment with Omerosa Manigault Newman.

    The Mullfoto is of an "Ambassador-in-Training" on L Street in downtown DC.

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