For a place that most of us will never see firsthand, the White House Situation Room conjures vivid mental images: gleaming high-tech military coordination, late-night strategy meetings with global implications and, most of all, security. It was the place from which top officials directed the 2011 operation against al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden. Surely this is the most secure room in the world. At least, it should be.
What it shouldn't conjure is the specter of some attention-seeking, former reality TV contestant waltzing in with a cellphone, which is prohibited there, and using it to secretly record the president's chief of staff — all while presumably sitting near classified visual, audio or electronic information that America's enemies would love to get their hands on. But such is the latest plotline in that wacky new reality TV hit, The Donald Trump Presidency.
The news that ex-presidential aide Omarosa Manigault Newman secretly recorded her own firing by chief of staff John Kelly in the Situation Room dramatically reminds us just how much President Trump's hiring criteria draw the kind of craven self-promoters and shallow opportunists who define his reality TV world. More importantly, it drives home the fact that even basic, competence-level security in this White House is dangerously inadequate. Congress should, immediately, get to the bottom of why this was allowed to happen, and whether it's happened before or since.
Like so many of the inhabitants of Trump World, it's always been difficult to take Omarosa (she prefers just that one name) very seriously. But here, some seriousness is required.
Former CIA analyst Ned Price noted in an outraged series of online comments that it's not remotely normal for someone to sneak a phone into the "Sit Room," or for the room to be used to handle personnel matters in the first place. "This is bigger than Omarosa," he wrote. "It's a culture of disregard for our natl security."
The nightmare scenario doesn't take much imagination. "If Omarosa carried for example a cellphone into the Situation Room," tweeted David Frum, senior editor at The Atlantic, "then not only did she record conversations there, but so potentially has any country or criminal organization that thought to hack her phone."
Bizarrely, the White House issued a statement basically agreeing, and leaving it at that. The "very idea a staff member would sneak a recording device into the White House Situation Room shows a blatant disregard for our national security," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the statement.
So it's the loose-cannon staffer's fault — and no one else's — that a loose-cannon staffer was allowed to do this. End of discussion.
Responsible presidential administrations address lapses, which is the only way to fix them. This White House, of course, won't. Congress should.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST LOUIS POST DISPATCH