Korea launched a ballistic missile that traveled over 300 miles before crashing into the Sea of Japan—far enough to hint at the ability to drop a nuke on one of the US’ closest allies.
Naturally, President Trump discussed the matter with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was visiting the US, and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. But here’s the problem: He did so in full view of guests at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, with smartphone cameras and flashlights pointed at presumably sensitive material.
On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that “no classified material” was shared at dinner, and that the president had received an intelligence briefing beforehand in an on-site Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, a specially outfitted room with one purpose: Keep out the spies.
Whatever comfort that reassurance affords, it doesn’t change the reality that a high-level diplomatic conversation took place that night in full view of waitstaff and nearby diners—at least one of whom posted about the show on social media.
“It was fascinating to watch the flurry of activity at dinner when the news came that North Korea had launched a missile in the direction of Japan,” wrote Richard DeAgazio in his now-private Facebook caption. A briefing may have happened in the SCIF, but plenty of discussion happened outside of it, too. The documents in Trump’s hands may not have been classified, but Flynn and White House adviser Stephen Bannon deemed them important enough to huddle over.
If the bulk of the president’s security discussions took place in a SCIF, great. If even a small portion of them didn’t, Trump and his team took an inexcusable risk with national security.