Jared Kushner might be a successful real estate developer and advisor to the President of the United States, but nowhere is it written that he has expertise in information security (INFOSEC).
Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform are alleging that Kushner is using personal devices, personal email and commercially available apps (WhatsApp specifically) to conduct official business. The committee, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote a letter to the White House saying the use was confirmed by Kusher’s attorney Abbe Lowell. The letter accuses Kushner of using WhatsApp for contact with persons outside the White House. The presumption is that these communications are part of his official duties, and not of a personal nature.
The lawyer supposedly made the report to Congress in December of last year. It’s unclear why Rep. Cummings is making the news public now, but it’s likely related to the fact that the White House has so far been unwilling to respond to demands to strip Kushner of his clearance, or release more details about what information was uncovered during the scope of Kushner’s security clearance background investigation.
Regardless, it is totally appropriate to ask the question: How are you using commercially email and commercial apps in your role as Special Advisor to the President?
The White House Communications Agency, who gets input from the entire intelligence community, including the National Security Agency, is there to provide White House staff and the President with their communication devices and protocols. Kushner may be cleared, but communication protocols aren’t open for debate or influence.
His lawyer noted in 2017 that fewer than 100 emails were sent to White House staff by Kushner using his personal email account. No mention of how many were sent to foreign interlocutors. By this writer’s count, that would be 100 too many. When asked about the WhatsApp communication, Lowe said Kushner had taken screenshots of the communication and sent them to his official account or the National Security Council in order to comply with official records-keeping requirements.
Security officials and White House critics have been quick to point out the encrypted nature of Whats App, and expressed concerns that not all records could be accessible. If the critics are correct that personal devices and commercial applications are being used to bypass official White House record keeping requirements, then Kushner should be sanctioned.
Advice to the White House: Let the professionals do their job when it comes to secure communications.