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Republicans storm ultra-secure “SCIF,” some with cell phones blazing [Update]

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On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers committed a major breach of security guidelines when they carried cell phones as they tried to force their way into a secure room where a closed-door impeachment hearing with a Defense Department official was taking place.

At least one House member, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, got inside the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in the basement of the House of Representatives. Despite strict rules barring all electronics inside such closed-off areas, Gaetz openly tweeted: "BREAKING: I led over 30 of my colleagues into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secret impeachment depositions. Still inside—more details to come."

After the tweet came under criticism, Gaetz later tweeted “sent by staff.” It remained unclear how the representative was able to communicate with his members of his staff.

Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina also issued a tweet that said he was "in the SCIF." A picture published by The New York Times showed a man identified as a House Republican holding up his phone as if taking pictures or video as he entered the secure room. A sign on the door of the room said, "Cameras and other recording devices prohibited without proper authorization." The room has lockers outside the doors where people are required to store electronics before entering.

Lawyers said bringing phones into the secure area was a potential felony. Security officials, meanwhile, stressed how damaging the move could be to national security. The SCIF is designed to prevent electronic eavesdropping so members of Congress can receive sensitive information that is often classified. Often, the materials in the room reveal sensitive operations or show how intelligence officers collect information on adversaries. SCIFs are carefully controlled to prevent electronic signals or electronic devices from leaving the rooms. Chief among these restrictions is no unauthorized electronic devices.

Compromising national security

Cell phones in particular are known to be a risk since it's easily within the means of a nation to infect both iOS and Android devices with full-featured spyware. From then on, the hackers can make the devices record audio and video, take pictures and download and upload files. Lawmakers are particularly prone to such attacks given the large amount of sensitive data they often have access to.

"Storming the SCIF without respecting the security protocols that require people to leave their electronic devices *outside* the space is actually compromising our national security," Mieke Eoyang, who regularly used the room while she was a former staffer for several security-related congressional committees, wrote on Twitter. "Bringing electronic devices into a SCIF, and this SCIF in particular, is *very* problematic, especially when done by members of Congress."

The event has parallels to a covertly made recording in the White House situation room last year by then-Trump administration staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman.

Update:Hours after the protest, Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat representing Mississippi and the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to the Sergeant at Arms calling the event "an urgent security matter."

"Such action is a blatant breach of security, violates the Oath all Members of Congress sign to gain access to classified information, and contravenes security controls established by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency for the protection of classified information," Thompson wrote. "The unprecedented breach of security raises serious concerns for Committee Chairmen, including me, responsible for maintaining SCIFs."

Wednesday's event occurred as members of the House Intelligence Committee were preparing to hear from Laura K. Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. Chanting "let us in, let us in," the protesting lawmakers prevented the hearing from proceeding. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff turned the protesters away and called on the sergeant-at-arms to break up the crowd.

According to the Associated Press:

Lawmakers described a chaotic scene. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said she had just walked into the room when the Republican lawmakers blew past Capitol Police officers and Democratic staffers. The staff member who was checking identification at the entrance was "basically overcome" by the Republicans, she said.

"Literally some of them were just screaming about the president and what we're doing to him and that we have nothing and just all things that were supportive of the president," Wasserman Schultz said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham criticized his Republican colleagues for the tactic, calling them "nuts" to make a "run on the SCIF."

"That's not the way to do it," he said.

The Republicans were protesting the closed-door hearings taking place in the impeachment process underway in the House. Only members of the House Intelligence Committee (which includes both Democrats and Republicans) have been permitted to attend hearings, though Rep. Schiff has pledged to make transcripts available after they have been scrubbed of any classified information. Some Republicans have claimed the restrictions resemble a Soviet-style proceeding, even though Republicans routinely held closed-door hearings when they controlled the House.

Post updated at 16:44 California time to add details about Thompson letter.

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HarlandCorbin
42 days ago
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Break up the crowd? Why not detain them? Unauthorized access into a secure facility, that usually means some time in a holding cell!
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By RKD

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Today, my girlfriend, whom I thought I would marry, broke up with me. She broke up with me because I don't believe the government controls the weather. Um, what? FML
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HarlandCorbin
42 days ago
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Dodged a crazy bullet there!
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Grandma Riding Grandpa

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Follow @lamebook on instagram for more content!

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HarlandCorbin
66 days ago
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And that's not cute? Okay, I guess badass is a better description!
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By Worst Way To Get Promoted

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Today, I walked in on my boss masturbating in the supply room of our restaurant. I pretended I didn't see him and quickly closed the door. About five minutes later, he came out, cupped my face in his hands and told me I was getting promoted. I'm happy, but scarred for life. FML
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HarlandCorbin
71 days ago
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I hope he stopped at a hand wash station first!
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Forever Scared

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Follow @lamebook on instagram for more content!

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HarlandCorbin
79 days ago
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Honestly, that doesn't look safe at all and I would either change lanes or pass as soon as I could.
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New Mexico Abolishes Spousal Privilege And I Have No Idea Who To Talk To About That

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The spousal privilege is the privilege I understand the most. It’s the privilege that, to me, seems most grounded in real, equitable concerns. Sure, the attorney-client privilege is necessary from a pure “process” standpoint. Other privileges allow other professional classes to their jobs free of criminal concerns. But that spousal privilege just seems like a thing that gets to the heart of keeping the state out of your life. The fact that nothing you say to your spouse can be used against you in a court of law makes me feel safe. If you ask me, I think the spousal privilege should extend to Alexa.

According to the state of New Mexico, not only am I wrong, but I am advocating for a misogynistic anachronism that no longer tracks with the real world. The New Mexico Supreme Court has become the first court in the nation to abolish the spousal privilege! The fact that this isn’t somehow front page news leading the entire legal press perhaps shows just how out of touch I am. From the ABA Journal:

The court said the privilege “has outlived its useful life,” report the Legal Profession Blog and the Associated Press. Justifications that have been cited for the privilege “seem little more than soaring rhetoric and legally irrelevant sentimentality,” the court said in its Aug. 30 opinion.

“We believe that the privilege is a vestige of a vastly different society than the one we live in today and has been retained in New Mexico simply through inertia,” the court said in a majority opinion by Chief Justice Judith Nakamura.

I mean, sure, the spousal privilege can be abused. So can all privileges. And sure, it comes from an inherently flawed view that a “wife’s” legal existence was inseparable from her husband’s. That’s bad. If that was sum total of the privilege’s continued existence, we should burn it to the ground. But the court goes this far:

But the privilege rests on assumptions that spouses are aware that the privilege exists, and that they rely on it when deciding how much information to share, the New Mexico Supreme Court said. Those assumptions are untested and do not survive scrutiny, according to the court.

Look, if we judged privileges by whether people know they exist and how they work, no privileges would exist. Whether a person knows that post-coital pillow talk (with your spouse) is inadmissible should be irrelevant. The issue should be whether people have a reasonable expectation that their communications are private. I’d argue that the confines of one’s relationship is where the expectation of privacy is the strongest. I don’t have to know how it works to know, and justifiably rely upon the fact, that when I fantasize with my spouse the six people I’d like to see die in a structure fire, that’s not going to come back on me if one of those people ends up falling down an elevator shaft in our building. I don’t think that because I went to law school, I think that because I know the difference between private and public speech.

We don’t need to abolish the marital privilege because it started from a place of sexism and traditional relationships, we need to expand it to include all of the private relationships we now have that aren’t officially licensed marriage. I can think of nothing more relevant to the modern world than expanding the scope of privacy that we can justifiably rely upon, given technology’s ever present encroachment on our private lives. You shouldn’t have to be “married” to expect that the things you say to your partner while you’re both getting ready for work are subject to some basic legal privileges. I mean, as long as you keep it to yourselves and don’t act like social media is also private, the privilege should extend to a wider array of relationships and choices.

On the other hand:

The court also noted that the privilege was adopted at a time when the wife’s legal existence was deemed to be suspended during marriage or incorporated into the husband’s legal existence. Critics point to that history and say the privilege creates a disparate gender impact because it is more often invoked by men than women and is often used to isolate families from state interference, the court said.

“The misogynistic history of the privilege is obvious and odious,” the court said.

I mean, they’re not wrong. I’m arguing about how the privilege should be used, the court is arguing about how the privilege has been used. The court has the right of that battle.

And if people would like to agree with me, maybe the New Mexico state legislature could re-write this thing along more progressive and modern lines.

Spousal communication privilege ‘has outlived its useful life,’ state supreme court says [ABA Journal]


Elie Mystal is the Executive Editor of Above the Law and a contributor at The Nation. He can be reached @ElieNYC on Twitter, or at elie@abovethelaw.com. He will resist.

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skorgu
89 days ago
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wat
HarlandCorbin
89 days ago
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So, New Mexico is a place on my list of states to avoid. Gotcha.
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