Why Omarosa's secret recording is an alarm bell

Omarosa had outdone herself, and that's hard to do when you are, well, Omarosa. But what she says she did is...

Posted: Aug 14, 2018 10:41 AM
Updated: Aug 14, 2018 10:41 AM

Omarosa had outdone herself, and that's hard to do when you are, well, Omarosa. But what she says she did is no laughing matter.

On Sunday morning, Omarosa Manigault Newman -- a former senior aide to President Donald Trump -- claims she had recorded a conversation in the White House Situation Room. In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Manigault Newman, author of a tell-all book about the Trump White House, played a recording of chief of staff John Kelly firing her last January.

Celebrities

Donald Trump

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Omarosa Manigault

Political Figures - US

US federal government

White House

The fact that the recording exists is shocking; that it allegedly happened in the most secure room in the White House -- known as a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) -- would represent a violation of strict internal procedures prohibiting unsecure devices there. The goal of these rules, of course, is to ensure that no external devices can be used by foreign enemies or spy services to listen in or record sensitive information.

The goal is to keep America safe.

If it happened the way Manigault Newman says it did, then it would appear that, in this White House, the enemy is within. And while, as a former government official in homeland security, I am unforgiving of Omarosa's deliberate action, no one should be surprised about it. After all, the reality show star -- hired by Trump and given entrée to the upper reaches of US government -- appears to have "qualified" for her job mainly because of her (until now) loyalty to him.

From the beginning, President Trump has flouted safety and security protocols. And in his neglect in enforcing security culture, he has set the tone for the White House. What would deter the "troops" from simply following his lead?

President Trump has often remarked that he wants the White House to run more like a business; his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner told the Washington Post last year that "the government should be run like a great American company." Unfortunately, in terms of security culture, the White House looks more like British Petroleum botching the Gulf oil spill, or Sony fumbling its cyberhacking crisis.

"Security culture" is a term often used in corporate settings. When a company is doing it right, it is "both a mindset and mode of operation. One that's integrated into day-to-day thinking and decision-making can make for a near-impenetrable operation," wrote Kevin Beaver, a corporate security specialist. "Conversely," he added, "a security culture that's absent will facilitate uncertainty and, ultimately, lead to security incidents that you likely can't afford to take on."

Safety and security don't happen by themselves. They require people to abide by the rules; they are only as strong as the weakest link. A door badge system, for example, won't work if badge holders keep the door open for those without badges. And throughout institutions and corporations, it is leadership that is essential in setting the tone for rigorous safety enforcement.

A CEO who enforces cyber rules or active-shooter training -- that is, a CEO who is engaged in safety design and execution -- will find that employees will follow suit. The BP oil spill did not happen in a vacuum; it was the consequence of a leadership culture that consistently denigrated safety concerns, leaving employees fearful, even, of reporting safety lapses.

President Trump has consistently flouted the safety and security apparatus designed to protect America's secrets. For example, for many months in the Trump administration, security clearances were granted on an interim basis because too many White House staff could not get through FBI review; this included, for some time, Jared Kushner.

Why does this matter? "If the level of your interim clearance is Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), the highest level, then you get to see the highest level information," notes former White House "ethics czar" Norman Eisen. "The risk ... is that somebody will accumulate a large amount of exposure to the highest level of classified information and then their clearance will be reduced or removed. You can't make people forget what they've already learned."

It's unusual for interim clearances to drag on for months, and potentially dangerous.

Trump uses a nonsecure phone for communications, claiming it is too "inconvenient" to adhere to rules. He gets important briefings outside of secure facilities. At best, he doesn't take security seriously; at worst, he doesn't appear to care.

It does not help that he has spent close to two years undermining the very security specialists -- the CIA and the FBI -- who design these protocols. If everything is a "deep state" ploy -- as the President has suggested -- then the dangers presented by our real enemies, those nations that would like our secrets, are likely to be minimized.

In this security culture vacuum, it would not be surprising if former "Apprentice" contestant Omarosa Manigault Newman felt enabled and energized to record in the Situation Room -- an action that would be treated as a shocking breach in any other administration. In this one, it's look out for yourself and don't worry about the iPhone.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 33068

Reported Deaths: 2068
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9524558
Lake3494175
Cass15897
Allen141966
St. Joseph122134
Hendricks114268
Hamilton113292
Elkhart110128
Johnson1092106
Madison58459
Porter50522
Bartholomew49034
Clark47941
LaPorte42022
Tippecanoe3823
Howard37824
Delaware37636
Jackson3721
Shelby36822
Hancock32727
Floyd31739
Boone30535
Morgan27724
Vanderburgh2592
Montgomery23417
White2308
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Noble20421
Grant19721
Dubois1903
Harrison18921
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16512
Warrick16528
Dearborn16521
Vigo1538
Lawrence15223
Miami1401
Putnam1357
Jennings1294
Orange12422
Scott1203
Ripley1106
Franklin1098
Kosciusko1011
Carroll933
Daviess8416
Steuben812
Marshall801
Newton7610
Wayne756
Fayette747
Wabash742
LaGrange682
Jasper661
Washington511
Jay490
Fulton471
Clay461
Rush452
Randolph453
Jefferson431
Pulaski410
Whitley383
Owen351
Sullivan341
DeKalb331
Brown331
Starke323
Perry280
Wells270
Benton260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton241
Crawford230
Blackford222
Parke190
Spencer191
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Vermillion100
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0161

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 115833

Reported Deaths: 5186
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook753063519
Lake7933281
DuPage7460350
Kane6083167
Will5356268
Winnebago209153
McHenry148870
St. Clair105077
Kankakee83644
Kendall75119
Rock Island63923
Champaign5957
Madison54557
Boone42416
DeKalb3704
Sangamon34328
Randolph2674
Jackson25610
McLean21613
Ogle2002
Stephenson1992
Macon19219
Peoria1918
Out of IL1831
Clinton18017
Union1519
Unassigned1490
LaSalle14113
Whiteside13412
Iroquois1314
Coles12313
Warren1130
Jefferson10116
Knox960
Grundy952
Monroe9311
McDonough847
Lee791
Tazewell704
Cass690
Henry670
Williamson602
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin442
Perry410
Pulaski410
Montgomery391
Vermilion381
Morgan341
Christian334
Jo Daviess320
Livingston322
Douglas260
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Menard190
Mason180
Washington180
Woodford182
Hancock160
Mercer160
Shelby161
Bureau151
Carroll142
Bond121
Franklin120
Piatt120
Schuyler120
Clark110
Crawford110
Fulton110
Brown100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
Terre Haute
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Robinson
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 66°
Indianapolis
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 67°
Rockville
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 64°
Casey
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 66°
Brazil
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 70°
Marshall
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 70°
Showers Early, Cooler
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events