The White House is taking extreme measures to combat the steady stream of leaks emanating from the building—but the leaks are still coming.
Officials are performing “sweeps” for banned personal cellphones using devices so accurate they can even discern what kind of phone is in the room, according to a report on Wednesday from CNN.
While the use of personal cellphones in the West Wing was banned back in January, it wasn’t publicly known how the White House was enforcing the ban.
According to CNN, staffers are required to put their phones in lockers or leave them in their cars. Officials reportedly carry out sweeps to make sure the ban is being followed (emphasis added):
Sources said it’s common to find several staffers huddled around the lockers throughout the day, perusing their neglected messages. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The ban isn’t based on an honor system. Sweeps are carried out to track down personal devices that have made it past the lobby and into the building. According to sources who are familiar with the sweeps, men dressed in suits and carrying large handheld devices have been seen roaming the halls of the West Wing, moving from room to room, scouring the place for devices that aren’t government-issued. If one is detected, one of the men will ask those in the room if someone forgot to put their phone away.
In the early days of the ban, staffers would forget, or didn’t realize that the ban included Apple watches. But if no one says they have a phone, the men begin searching the room.
CNN also reports that those devices are accurate enough to pick up what kind of device is in the room:
When the ban was first implemented several months ago, a group of lawmakers was waiting for the President in the West Wing while a sweep was being carried out. The device picked up a Samsung Galaxy, which was in the pocket of one of the visiting lawmakers, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The CNN report doesn’t say what happens if and when those enforcers turn up a banned phone during work hours, but the network’s sources said they don’t think it would lead to a firing. Those anonymous sources also pointed out—a bit ironically—that the ban and its draconian enforcement haven’t stopped the leaks, citing White House aide Kelly Sadler reportedly saying John McCain’s opposition to Gina Haspel didn’t matter, because “he’s dying anyway.”
The White House is also mounting an increasingly hysterical public campaign against the leaks. On Wednesday’s Fox & Friends, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called them “disgusting” and a stain on the “honor of a lifetime” that was working for Donald Trump.
It’s clear that phones aren’t the problem, although they’re certainly handy for, say, recording conversations you want to leak. The problem is so widespread that no ban could touch it, and because this administration is rotten to the very top, there’s no stopping these low-level offenders.