The Insider

Pentagon won't rule out cell phone ban

February 1, 2018 at 3:42 PM

The Defense Department is undertaking a sweeping review of technology allowed at military installations worldwide, and officials won't rule out banning cell phones from places like the Pentagon.

The review is driven by the Washington Post's recent revelation that data from fitness devices have been exposing sensitive information about the location and activities of U.S. military personnel, according to chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.

"The current review was in part informed" by the disclosure in the Post story that a Strava heat map revealed the locations of U.S. installations in places like Somalia and Yemen, White told reporters during a Pentagon press briefing today.

The security oversight is driving Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to consider banning civilians and service members from bringing their personal cell phones into the Pentagon, CNN reported yesterday.

But Mattis is not just considering a ban at the Pentagon, according to White.

"It's not just about the Pentagon," White said. "The secretary is looking across the DOD enterprise. That heat map brought up a potential vulnerability. So he's taking a comprehensive look at our security measures, what we can do, mitigating factors and of course he will also consider the concerns of the work force."

White said DOD is reviewing a "wide array of electronics," including those that use GPS. Asked why she could not assure the DOD workforce that a blanket cell phone ban won't be issued, she said, "because it's all under review."

"You have to also consider the fact that we have been attacked -- bases have been attacked," White said. "Information is power and our adversaries have used information to plan attacks against us. No decision has been made yet, but we are looking at a comprehensive review of how we look at electronics."

Democrats from the House Armed Services Committee are seeking more information from the Pentagon as a result of the Post story.

"We respectfully request your department provide an update on the review of security protocols relating to this issue, to include restrictions on the presence or use of smart technology," the lawmakers write in a Feb. 1 letter to Mattis.

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