Analysis: Trump’s Twitter deactivation was a national security vulnerability

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed was deactivated Wednesday around 6:45 p.m. by a rogue employee of the company. It was restored after about 11 minutes. 

The event created a staggering national security black hole. Here’s why.

The deactivation was proof that use of an insecure messaging system by the U.S. president could leave him and the nation susceptible to the actions of anyone with access to that messaging system.

For example, if, during the incident, an incendiary message had been posted, and subsequently interpreted or misinterpreted by an adversary with access to nuclear or other conventional weapons, that adversary could have responded with action culminating in disastrous results.

Another scenario: Twitter users can schedule tweets, which means the person who had briefly taken over could have written messages during the 11 minutes of darkness that might not be revealed for days, weeks, months or even years.

One can only hope that function of the president’s Twitter account has now been checked and cleared.

Yet another scenario: Intelligence agencies across the globe spend billions of dollars trying to penetrate the president’s secure bubble, his thoughts and intentions. A rogue employee inside a social media organization willing to seize control of the president’s Twitter account and hand it over to a bad actor just for a few moments could trigger the unthinkable.

Forty-two million people read every word Trump writes on his Twitter account. Among them are U.S. enemies, adversaries, friends and intelligence operatives, all mining every tweet for context. Likely among them are people such as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Even leaders of terrorist and criminal cyber-organizations in opaque places around the globe likely read his feed.

No doubt Trump was warned about this early in his presidency, but the warnings could only refer to hypothetical instances. This incident is evidence of what those well-founded advisories warned about.

Simply put: For 11 minutes, the president’s control over his own words was stolen.

J.J. Green

JJ Green is WTOP's National Security Correspondent. He reports daily on security, intelligence, foreign policy, terrorism and cyber developments, and provides regular on-air and online analysis. He is also the host of two podcasts: Target USA and Colors: A Dialogue on Race in America.

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