There Was A Security Fiasco At Mar-A-Lago, It Just Didn't Involve the Silly Facebook Photo

Over the weekend and today two items have emerged on Trump’s weekend stay at Mar-A-Lago while entertaining Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. One of the issues is real. The other is misguided.


Let’s get rid of the misguided part first. The officer who was detailed to carry the “nuclear football” had himself photographed with a US citizen. This apparently is a national disgrace and a sign the republic is about to fall.


Gabe Malor is right. Not just no, but f*** no.

Some background. Military aide to the president of the United States is not a job given to some random schmoe. All the services send their very best. They are majors/lieutenant commanders or lieutenant colonels/commanders, they have exemplary records. They will have been promoted early at least once. They are destined for great things. So the first thing you have to assume is that the officer in question didn’t put his career in jeopardy. If you can’t give him that benefit of a doubt then he probably shouldn’t be carrying the launch codes to begin with. In addition identifying this officer by his first name is not a security violation. What is a terrorist going to do, look up “Rick” on the internet. You can find hundreds of much more revealing images on Google images. For instance, in this one, if you get the hi-res image from Getty Images you can read this officer’s first and last name on his name plate.


In fact if you want to know Rick’s last name, you can again go to Getty Images and get the hi-res version of this photo.



As the officer was not handling the nuclear launch codes at the time, it is hard to see what the issue is. How do we know he wasn’t on duty? Well the guy posting the FB images shows “Rick” on duty in the second image. He’s wearing Army Class A uniform. Note the uniform blouse, it is easily identified by the branch piping (he’s either Infantry or Military Intelligence but by the fact that he has a Ranger tab I’d bet on Infantry) on the sleeve and the shoulder boards. In the image with the guy, Rick is in what is called Class B, which doesn’t have the blouse. He’s wearing the uniform windbreaker with no rank insignia and the aiguillette that marks him as an aide-de-camp. The two FB photos are obviously taken at different times of day. The one with the “football” is during daylight, the other social image is at night.

If he had been on duty then the guy in the picture had to have sufficient security clearance to get past the cordon of Secret Service agents that protect Trump. Note the Secret Service agents all around “Rick” in the two images where he has the “nuclear football.”

More to the point, if there was any violation at all it was clearly on the part of the officer involved and should be handled by his detachment commander, I don’t know who that is but I do know that it isn’t Donald Trump. And no amount of disliking Trump can make this the fault of anyone but the guy in the photo if there is, as seems doubtful, that there is any fault to be found.


Now the second issue. This one is serious.

While Trump and Abe were eating word arrived that North Korea had launched an ballistic missile and knocked a hole in the Sea of Japan. In and of itself it was a non-issue. If someone didn’t think the DPRK wouldn’t do something like this while Abe was in the US they weren’t thinking very hard. Be that as it may what follows next is simply wrong.


This is by the same guy who took the picture of “Rick.”

The story via CNN:

On Saturday evening, as the two men walked through Mar-a-Lago’s ornate wrought-iron doors on their way to dinner, neither responded to questions about the launch from reporters.

Swanning through the club’s living room and main dining area alongside Abe, Trump was — as is now typical — swarmed with paying members, who now view dinner at the club as an opportunity for a few seconds of face time with the new President.

But as he sat down for the planned working dinner with Abe, whose country is well within range of North Korea’s missiles, it was clear his counterpart felt it necessary to respond to the test. The launch occurred just before 8 a.m. on Sunday morning in Japan.

Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and chief strategist Steve Bannon left their seats to huddle closer to Trump as documents were produced and phone calls were placed to officials in Washington and Tokyo.

The patio was lit only with candles and moonlight, so aides used the camera lights on their phones to help the stone-faced Trump and Abe read through the documents.

Even as a flurry of advisers and translators descended upon the table carrying papers and phones for their bosses to consult, dinner itself proceeded apace. Waiters cleared the wedge salads and brought along the main course as Trump and Abe continued consulting with aides.

First lady Melania Trump and Abe’s wife, Akie, remained seated across from their husbands, speaking quietly through a translator amid the activity. Earlier in the day, the women had toured a nearby Japanese garden and visited the gothic Bethesda-by-the-Sea church, where Trump and his wife were married in 2005.

Eventually Trump and Abe, along with their collection of aides, stood and moved from the dining terrace and toward a marble-trimmed ballroom, whose gilded columns were concealed by more sober-looking black drapes.

Standing in front of an American and Japanese flag, a stern-faced Abe called the launch “absolutely intolerable,” and insisted North Korea adhere to United Nations Security Council resolutions barring it from testing of ballistic missiles.


This is wrong on a lot of levels. First, you had people at the table who were not cleared to hear the information being discussed — the spouses. Second, you had waiters who were cleared to be near the president but obviously didn’t have the clearance to hear what was being said. Those phones being used as flashlights? Are you serious given the vulnerability of basically all smartphones to be turned into open mikes and cameras without the user’s knowledge? The open setting? You have to assume that everyone in that dining room had been cleared at some level but certainly not to the extent of having a security clearance. Do we think no one in the room could have had a mini-directional mike in hopes of eavesdropping on Trump at dinner? Because you can buy them for well under a hundred dollars. Maybe the Secret Service installed the Cone of Silence in the dining room but it still is a very, very sloppy way of doing business.

Most importantly is the image it portrays. Unlike more and more pundits, I don’t pretend to know what Trump is thinking BUT I can easily see him thinking that the image of him “taking care of business” while continuing a dinner party would be a positive one. Considering the well-deserved thumping that Trump gave Clinton over her sending classified email by an unclassified email system Trump has an obligation to follow the rules of handling classified information. This gives a fuel to the already brightly burning meme of disarray and incompetence that is attaching itself to the Trump White House at a very rapid pace.



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