Skip to main content

Republicans tried to bring phones into the SCIF room. Here’s why they can’t

It’s called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (pronounced skiff), and it has a no-phone rule. A group of Republican lawmakers may have violated that rule when they stormed a closed-door hearing Wednesday, October 23, allegedly bringing in cell phones.

“The facilities are carefully designed and controlled to ensure that electronic signals, surveillance methods, or other listening devices do not compromise the information discussed in these rooms,” tweeted Mieke Eoyang, a former staff member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. She notes that hackers can turn on a cell’s microphones without their owners’ knowledge.

Related Videos
Rep. Matt Gaetz
Rep Matt Gaetz led congressional Republicans who tried to bring phones into the high-security SCIF room. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, was scheduled to testify in front of the bipartisan House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees. Some of the Republicans who disrupted the hearing tweeted about being in the room, then later said their staff members were sending the messages for them. In one video, though, Rep. Alex Mooney appears to be holding a phone up as he walks into the SCIF.

“You have to check your electronics,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland in a 2015 National Journal story about SCIFs. “There’s a guard out front. You just check your stuff, punch in your code or whatever you use to get in, and you just go in.”

“A SCIF is important to protect classified information from getting out,” said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger in the same article. “The technology has developed so much today to the point where our enemies, our Russias, our Chinas, can penetrate right through [the wall] if there’s no SCIF.”

There are many uses for SCIFs, like reviewing secure documents. The Director of National Intelligence has strict specifications for them. The checklist requires information about its acoustical protection (so an outsider can’t overhear what’s happening inside), its exterior security, and access control. Anything from a hotel room to a trailer on George W. Bush’s ranch can serve as a SCIF, provided the proper security is put in place. They can be either temporary or permanent, like the White House Situation Room.

“Mike Conaway of Texas collected the electronics,” according to CNN’s Manu Raju. “All of us put our electronics in boxes outside,” Connolly said. “That SCIF is used by Congress for lots of highly classified purposes. To compromise that to make a point, is deeply troubling.” Following the disruption and before a hearing resumes, the room would need to be swept for electronic devices that would compromise the security of the SCIF.

The rules about devices in SCIFs are apparently so strict that one woman claims she was having difficulty getting permission to bring a breast pump into one.

Editors' Recommendations

Can’t buy a Nothing Phone? Now you can turn your phone into one
An iPhone 13 Pro Max with the transparent Dbrand Something case.

If you haven't been able to get your hands on the Nothing Phone 1 — either due to limited availability or the fact that it isn't being sold in the U.S. — Dbrand is able to help you ease the pain. Now you can turn your current phone into a Nothing Phone by using transparent-style Something skins that almost perfectly mirror Nothing's design.

Dbrand's marketing for its Something line of smartphone cases and skins isn't shying away from poking fun at the hype surrounding the Nothing Phone 1. Now that the Phone 1 is here, it's clear that its main selling point is its striking, transparent design. And that's something Dbrand knows all too well.

Read more
Apple is banned from selling 5G iPhones in Colombia — here’s why
Apple's rumored hardware subscription service is a compelling rental service

5G iPhones have been slapped with a sales ban in Colombia due to a 5G patent infringement dispute between Apple and Ericsson.

A Colombian court in Bogotá swung the ban hammer on Saturday, saying that Apple is unable to sell the 5G iPhones nor import them into the country, even though Apple argued there are no 5G networks available for Colombian consumers. The ban affects the latest models, including the iPhone 12, iPhone 13, and the iPad Pro, which the court found infringed Ericsson's patent pertaining to 5G tech.

Read more
Apple’s best iOS 16 feature is something you can’t see
An iPhone 13 Pro running iOS 16 sits on top of an iPad with red lighting shining.

With iOS 16, Apple is once again showing off one of its more useful features. No, it's not iMessage, though that's part of it. It's not the new Apple Pay Later, whatever you may think of it — though that again is part of it. It's not even the new lock screen that's sure to draw attention.

It's all of these and none of these at the same time. Apple's strongest feature is its ubiquity. It's the ability to roll out new features that rely on large groups of people to use them and actually have people use them. It's not a feature you can will into existence, and it's something that Apple's iOS 16 features once again highlight.

Read more