Paying members of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach were treated to some impromptu dinner theater this weekend as the new president handled a national security crisis in full view of fellow diners on the resort’s terrace.
Apparently untroubled by the possibility that foreign intelligence services might have made the minimal effort required to plant operatives among the guests, or wait staff, Trump was photographed discussing North Korea’s surprise missile test with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan as waiters removed dishes and aides used their phone flashlights to illuminate sensitive documents.
Several images of the spectacle were posted on Facebook a short time later by a new member of the club, Richard DeAgazio, who paid Trump $200,000 to join Mar-a-Lago in December, when it was clear that one of the perks would be access to the new president of the United States.
After DeAgazio cheerfully described to the Washington Post his untrammeled view of the crisis being discussed in public — and said that Trump dining on the terrace, with the club members, “just shows that he’s a man of the people” — he changed the settings on his Facebook profile to make the images private. Having made them public for more than 12 hours, however, ensured that screenshots were made by journalists and, one would expect, every foreign intelligence agency of even minimal competence.
One of DeAgazio’s images, of Trump using a phone at the dinner table, reminded Phillip Bump of the Washington Post that the new president still appears to be using an old, insecure Android phone to take calls and post tweets, despite the fact that this device could very easily be hacked and used to spy on him.
Trump’s lax approach to secure communications drew comment from those old enough to remember the presidential campaign of 2016, when his main argument was that Hillary Clinton should be jailed for having used a private email account as secretary of state.
One smartphone app, for flashlights, has even been used by Chinese spies.
Tommy Vietor, a former National Security Council spokesperson for President Obama, pointed to another vulnerability exposed by the scene at Mar-a-Lago: the possibility that waiters at the club, who continued dinner service during the discussion of North Korea’s missile test, could be recruited by foreign intelligence services.
Collecting intelligence on the US president is now as simple as paying off a Mar-a-Lago waiter.— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) February 13, 2017
For a clue as to just how easy that might be, consider that the Palm Beach Post reported in December that Mar-a-Lago hires dozens of temporary foreign workers each year, using the federal government’s H-2B visa program.
It was not immediately clear where the foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago come from, but another club in the area told members that workers hired under the same visa program come from Romania, Ireland, and South Africa.