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White House bans personal phones, smartwatches, others within West Wing

The White House has banned personal cell phones and electronic devices within the West Wing complex. The ban was contained in a memo issued on Wednesday by Chief of Staff John Kelly.

According to the memo, the policy which takes effect January 16, is intended “to protect White House information technology infrastructure from compromise and sensitive or classified information from unauthorized access or dissemination.”

ABC News however quotes one senior White House official as saying that the ban is really more about preventing those embarrassing and politically damaging leaks that have plagued Trump’s first year in office.

“It’s designed to prevent leaks and ensure the productivity of the people who work here,” the official said.

The banned items include laptops, smartwatches and devices with WiFi, Bluetooth, radio, or cellular capabilities and any portable device that emits an electric signal and was not issued by the White House Communications Agency.

Staff working in the West Wing were advised to leave the prohibited devices at home, in their vehicles or their non West Wing offices. There are also lockers available for storing the devices..

The memo stressed that “violations of this policy by EOP staff are security incidents that may indicate knowing, willful, or negligent conduct in violation of security policy and may therefore result in disciplinary action and, for other Federal employees and visitors, may include being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex”.

The policy isn’t without precedent in federal buildings. For example, due to security concerns, personal cell phones are not permitted on the seventh floor of the State Department where the senior executive offices are located.

The memo added that “the West Wing” as stated in it, “means the facility generally located between the President’s Executive Residence and West Executive Drive.

“For purposes of this policy, the West Wing does not include the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, any White House Press Corps work spaces, or any outdoor common area, such as the Rose Garden or the North Lawn media positions.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said last week that the new ban has nothing to do with leaks to the press or the revelations in Michael Wolff’s book “Fire & Fury.”

“Absolutely not. That’s a ridiculous characterization. This is about the security and the integrity of the technology systems here at the White House,” Sanders said, according to ABC News

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