The US secret service has stopped President Donald Trump from using too many communications devices to stop him leaking sensitive information.
The spies say they are concerned top-secret information in Trump’s possession could be compromised and they cannot afford to take the risk of his freely communicating with people.
This is according to a report in the Wall Street Journal which cites “current and former officials familiar with the matter” as its sources.
WSJ goes even further by saying the decision to stop Trump talking “underscores deep mistrust between intelligence community and president”.
In particular, says WSJ, the spies are concerned about the Trump team’s contacts with the Russian government.
The past few days have been quite turbulent for Trump, even by his stormy standards. It reached a peak a couple of days ago when Michael Flynn resigned.
Flynn is the retired US Army general who was chosen by Trump to be his National Security Adviser, but that appointment officially lasted barely three weeks before Trump was forced by his intelligence agents to say, “You’re fired”, although he may not have used those exact words.
Whatever the exact words, Flynn is no longer in the administration and the reason given was that he had misled the vice president, Mike Pence, over conversations he had with Russian officials.
Flynn’s critics claimed he was vulnerable to blackmail by Russian spies and urged Trump to make his tenure the shortest in history.
So far there has been no allegations of illegality on Flynn’s part, and this may be just a sign that US intelligence agents are particularly anxious at the moment.
This follows weeks of claims and reports that Russian spies had infiltrated the US presidential elections and hacked them to damage Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign in favour of putting Republican Trump in the White House.
The CIA, NSA and other agencies even produced a report which claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin “directly ordered” the hack, and although Russian officials denied the allegations, Putin arrested workers from security firm Kaspersky and the FSB and accused them of “treason”.
Cyber crime and espionage originating from Russia has been growing over the past decade, but then it’s been growing everywhere around the world, with many large, global enterprises as well as government departments and agencies having their user account details stolen.
Governments now seem to be taking the matter more seriously and pledging more money to develop stronger cyber defences. The US is likely to be the biggest spender this year, with former President Barack Obama having earmarked $19 billion for cyber security this year – up from $14 billion the previous year.
The bigger budget may not directly affect the possible decision to deprive Trump of his unsecured Android phone which he uses to tweet – against the advice of his officials, according to reports.
But the bigger budget may be the reason for the increased paranoia, or caution, on the part of security staff and advisers. Certainly they are generating the sort of pressure that leads to decisions where the president isn’t even allowed tweets – which was the case at some point.
Trump himself had pledged higher levels of cyber security in his administration, and yesterday tweeted that he was fed up by spies giving out candy.
He said: “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!”
He also said: “Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?). Just like Russia.”
While no one knows what he’s talking about, especially when he says “just like Russia”, Wall Street Journal points out that intelligence officials have always, throughout history, withheld some information, especially about how they gather it, from the president of the day.