The New York Times is reporting that intelligence agencies believe that Chinese and Russian spies are habitually listening in on phone conversations President Donald Trump has because of his preference for using an unsecured iPhone. The president likes to use the iPhone because it contains his contact list and also allows him to reach out to cronies that his staff might not want him talking to. But the insecure line is easily accessed by foreign powers.
According to the newspaper, “The officials said they have also determined that China is seeking to use what it is learning from the calls—how Mr. Trump thinks, what arguments tend to sway him and to whom he is inclined to listen—to keep a trade war with the United States from escalating further. In what amounts to a marriage of lobbying and espionage, the Chinese have pieced together a list of the people with whom Mr. Trump regularly speaks in hopes of using them to influence the president, the officials said.”
The Russian government is also reputedly spying on the president’s phone calls but is less inclined to use information to manipulate Trump because they regard him as already simpatico with his counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
The saving grace of the situation can be found in President Trump’s paranoia and lack of policy of knowledge, both of which act as guardrails preventing him from blurting out important secrets.
“Administration officials said Mr. Trump’s longtime paranoia about surveillance—well before coming to the White House he believed his phone conversations were often being recorded—gave them some comfort that he was not disclosing classified information on the calls,” The New York Times observes. “They said they had further confidence he was not spilling secrets because he rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown and is not well versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities.”