Security experts and many Americans alike are blasting an attack by the mainstream media giant Politico against Vice President Kamala Harris, an attack that comes amid revelations of a study in The Washington Post showing just how unfairly negative the press has been in its coverage of President Joe Biden and his administration. As it turns out, Politico, a major player in DC politics, is effectively owned by a million-dollar donor to Donald Trump.
The anger which spread through social media late Monday night was fueled by a tweet from Politico's White House reporter Alex Thompson, who shows Vice President Harris in four different images using corded headphones instead of wireless ones. According to Thompson, co-author of the piece, the Vice President has a "Bluetooth phobia," and co-wrote a story titled, "Kamala Harris is Bluetooth-phobic."
NEW: Kamala Harris has long felt that Bluetooth headphones are a security risk. So, she insists on using wired ones, 3 fmr campaign aides told @rubycramer and me. That Bluetooth phobia remains (if you look closely, you'll see the clump of wires in hand)https://t.co/9poyMTQrU2 pic.twitter.com/HtscTWm1sF
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) December 6, 2021
Outrage was swift, with many asking how this could even possibly rate as a valid "news" story amid a nation whose democracy is crumbling as it battles a global pandemic, rising fascism, an attempted coup, a decades-long plot to curtail reproductive, voting, minority, and sexual minority rights, climate change, inflation and massive wealth inequality, in a political climate that some fear may lead to actual civil war.
Others, especially intelligence and national security experts slammed Politico and the article's authors, noting just how potentially dangerous Bluetooth headphones actually are from a security perspective.
But Thompson was undeterred, defending the article at every turn.
"Former aides say that VP has long been careful about security — w/ some describing it as prudent & others suggesting it’s a bit paranoid," he tweeted Monday. "A former aide from AG days said when a person arrived for a meeting, staff were instructed not to allow them to wait in Harris' office alone."
Politico in October was sold to the German media conglomerate Axel Springer, reportedly for about $1 billion. Axel Springer, which has been described as "conservative" and by casual observers "right wing," is majority-owned by the U.S.-based investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), whose founders are known for historic, massive leveraged buyouts.
Henry Kravis is a million-dollar Trump donor, according to Forbes.
Dana Milbank is the author of the Washington Post piece that exposes just how poorly the mainstream media has covered the Biden administration. On Sunday he happened to tweet about Politico:
It’s interesting that Germany’s Axel Springer completed its takeover of Politico on Oct. 18, and that’s exactly when Politico took its sharply negative turn against Biden. Maybe this explains the pushback from @RyanLizza
— Dana Milbank (@Milbank) December 5, 2021
Chad Loder has been described by The Intercept as "a tech company founder and cybersecurity expert from Los Angeles who posts meticulous, open-source investigations of local right-wing extremists on a Twitter feed with more than 100,000 followers." He's also written articles like "Should you hold employees accountable for cyber security?" (yes, in short, by the way.)
Here's how he responded to the Politico piece:
I'm a recognized security expert who holds 7 patents in computer security.
Kamala Harris is absolutely right about the security risk, and the word "phobia" has no place in the discourse. — Chad Loder (they/them) (@chadloder) December 7, 2021
Byron Tau, who writes about national security for The Wall Street Journal, explained why Bluetooth is a security risk:
"Bluetooth peripherals are a security risk. If they don't rotate their unique identifier, they can easily be sniffed and tracked. If there are flaws in the security, they can be compromised. Most people don't have to worry about these things but high level federal officials should," he said via Twitter.
Magdi Semrau, a journalist who writes about science, politics, and culture, responded to Thompson and his co-author Ruby Cramer, pointing to an article titled: "Sorry, readers. Your Bluetooth device is a security risk."
It's not a phobia https://t.co/wHCyezH32J
— Magdi Semrau (@magi_jay) December 7, 2021
A former chief of staff for the White House National Space Council offered some anecdotal evidence of Bluetooth use curtailment, and asked, "what is the point of this article?"
I'm still thinking about this story from @politico. If you go into a SCIF, you aren't even allowed to have bluetooth hearing aids. I knew people that worked in the White House in sensitive NatSec jobs that didn't even own smart phones. Like, what is the point of this article? https://t.co/i08yiMHIy5
— Jared Zambrano-Stout (@Space_Jared) December 7, 2021
Referring to Hillary Clinton, former Media Matters senior fellow Jamison Foser asked Thompson and Cramer: "Did you consider including for context in this piece the fact that another high-profile woman was the subject of years of obsessive media coverage about supposed security risks in her communications practices as a high-ranking government official?"
Sherrilyn Ifill, the highly-respected President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) asked what many were thinking:
How is this a story? https://t.co/gJGRdsSgUr
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) December 7, 2021