WASHINGTON — A Facebook post showing the face of a soldier tasked with the infamous “football” — which carries key information in the event of a nuclear attack — doesn’t pose a national security threat, two defense officials told BuzzFeed News.
A member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, Richard DeAgazio, wrote two Facebook posts over the weekend about interacting with the president, his staff, and the president’s visitor, Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe. The posts prompted a flurry of speculation on Twitter about the precedence of such a move and rumblings within the Pentagon about just who has access to the nations' secrets now that decisions are being made in the public eye.
In one Feb. 11 post, DeAgazio showed two photos of a soldier whose job it is to carry a briefcase, known as "the football," anywhere the president travels. The football holds attack plans, ways for the president to communicate to the Pentagon, and other key information that are for the president's eyes only in the event of a nuclear attack.
In the first photo, DeAgazio and the soldier are locked arm in arm; in the second, the soldier is carrying the football while walking toward a building along with several other officials.
The football “functions as a mobile hub in the strategic defense system of the United States. It is held by an aide-de-camp and Rick is the Man,” DeAgazio’s post read.
Showing the face of the soldier wasn’t illegal or against protocol but rather in bad form, a senior defense official told BuzzFeed News.
After all, the football — and its carrier —travel everywhere with the president and end up in photographs. He is in the background nearly everywhere the president travels. John Noonan, a former nuclear official under President Ronald Reagan, agreed on Twitter, pointing out that a former dean at the Virginia Military Institute had once shown a full slideshow of pictures of himself at Reagan's side during his time carrying the football.
That said, every previous carrier has sought to remain as anonymous as one can while always within feet of the president.
“My understanding that we, as military officials and those who serve our elected officials, typically seek to maintain a low profile. It's never about us. It's about the mission and the people we serve,” one of the defense officials explained to BuzzFeed News.
DeAgazio posted a second series of photos of officials gathered around the dinner table as they learned that North Korea had launched an intermediate ballistic missile test Saturday night US time. The missile landed in the Sea of Japan and caught both the administration and its guests by surprise.
That post represented a bigger threat than the unprecedented selfie, according to the sentiment filtering through the halls of the Pentagon on Monday — prompting questions about whether those who pay high fees to the club are now getting access to the inner workings of government. How close can private citizens get to the inner workings of national crises, some wondered. Can a club member now hear conversations, chime in, or tweet out deliberations?
The Pentagon declined to comment about the soldier, noting that he worked for the White House, where officials directed queries. DeAgazio's Facebook account has since been deleted.
Nancy Youssef is a national security correspondent with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Nancy A. Youssef at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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