National security expert appalled by Matt Gaetz cell phone stunt: ‘I cannot emphasize enough how serious this is’
Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz/Screenshot

A national security expert and former congressional staffer broke down the seriousness of a breach by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and other Republican lawmakers into a secure area beneath the Capitol.


A group of GOP congress members carrying prohibited cell phones stormed a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility in the Capitol basement, where Laura Cooper, a Pentagon official with jurisdiction over Ukraine policy, was scheduled to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry.

"Aside from disrupting the testimony of a DoD official shedding light on the President's attempts to extort a sham investigation into the child of his most feared political rival by withholding military aid that Congress gave to resist a Russian invasion," tweeted Mieke Eoyang, vice president of the Third Way think tank's national security program, "storming the SCIF without respecting the security protocols that require people to leave their electronic devices *outside* the space, is actually compromising our national security."

She explained that the SCIF itself is designed to prevent electronic eavesdropping to lawmakers can receive highly classified information about very sensitive intelligence operations, and how that information is collected.

"Foreign adversaries are constantly trying to figure out what goes on inside those rooms to figure out what the US knows about them, to out US high-level sources in their governments, to know what the US government knows and use it against us," Eoyang tweeted.

The facilities are carefully designed to ensure listening devices cannot compromise their security, and Eoyang said the GOP lawmakers had made an inexcusable error in judgment.

"Members of Congress (and their electronic devices) are high-value targets for compromise by foreign intelligence services," she tweeted.

Lawmakers have access to sensitive information and are highly sensitive to their public reputations, Eoyang pointed out, which makes them vulnerable to blackmail.

"They also tend to be lax in their security protocols. This means they may not know they have been compromised," she explained. "For example, their phones can be turned into listening devices without their knowledge."

Bluntly stated, Eoyang explained, Gaetz and his Republican accomplices endangered national security.

"I cannot emphasize enough how serious this is," she tweeted.

"To disrupt testimony from a DOD official on how the President endangered national security for both the US and Ukraine by withholding military aid," Eoyang added, "the President's allies further endangered national security by storming the SCIF with their electronic devices."