|© Hilary Swift for The New York Times President-elect Donald Trump talking to reporters as he and his wife Melania Trump arrive for a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.|
Speaking to a handful of reporters outside his Palm Beach, Fla., club, Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump cast his declarations of doubt as an effort to seek the truth.
“I just want them to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge,” Mr. Trump said of the intelligence agencies. “If you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong,” he added, referring to intelligence cited by the George W. Bush administration to support its march to war in 2003. “So I want them to be sure,” the president-elect said. “I think it’s unfair if they don’t know.”
He added: “And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”
When asked what he knew that others did not, Mr. Trump demurred, saying only, “You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Mr. Trump, who does not use email, also advised people to avoid computers when dealing with delicate material. “It’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way, because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe,” Mr. Trump said.
“I don’t care what they say, no computer is safe,” he added. “I have a boy who’s 10 years old; he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.”
The comments on Saturday were a departure from a statement that Mr. Trump issued through transition officials last week, in which he said that it was time for people to “move on” from the hacking issue but that he would be briefed on the matter by intelligence officials early in the new year.
On Thursday, President Obama ordered a sweeping set of retaliatory measures against Russia over the election hacking. The United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shuttered two estates that it claimed had been used for intelligence-gathering.
The Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, declined to respond in kind to the measures, a gesture that Mr. Trump appeared to view favorably. He praised it on Twitter and criticized news media coverage that had been harsh about Russia.
Mr. Trump, who has sought a warmer relationship with Mr. Putin, has repeatedly scoffed at the notion that Russia was behind the hacking, a stance at odds with members of his own party. At one point, Mr. Trump declared that the hacking may have been the work of “someone sitting on their bed weighing 400 pounds.”
With computers unsafe, a volunteer emerges to be Trump's message courier
I'm going to start 2017 off with something unexpected: I agree with President-elect Donald Trump.
Over the weekend, when asked about U.S. intelligence agency reports of Russian hacking during the election, Trump said, "No computer is safe."
He's absolutely right. I've been carrying a computer around in my hand for years and almost all the private thoughts I typed into an app called Twitter wound up on the internet for all to see. (Imagine my embarrassment when strangers learned that I find flatulence jokes amusing — I was aghast!)
The president-elect continued: "It's very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier."
This is an excellent idea for the modern era. Using what Trump has referred to as "the email thing" is incredibly dumb, and he should know because he's something of an expert on what he has called "the cyber."
"I know a lot about hacking," Trump said Saturday, presumably referring to computer hacking and not the age-old practice of hacking an enemy courier to death after knocking him off his bicycle and stealing his important documents. "And hacking is a very hard thing to prove."
It's also a very easy thing to avoid. Just write your most private thoughts on paper and hand that paper to a young, underpaid person with a messenger bag and hope a foreign power hasn't offered that person money or a six-pack of craft beer in exchange for your aforementioned most private thoughts.
Sure, the tech geeks out there in the dork-o-sphere will suggest that the United States bolster its cybersecurity to keep pace with other countries in an age when online attacks have already become commonplace. But Trump is not president-elect of Nerdsylvania, he's president-elect of America, and what America needs right now is a president who communicates via quill-pen-written parchments delivered by horse-riding couriers.
"I have a boy who's 10 years old, he can do anything with a computer," Trump said, inaccurately. "You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier."
Amen. It's that kind of outside-the-cyber thinking that will help America lead the world into the 19th century.
Or, as Ari Schwartz, a former National Security Council cybersecurity adviser, told the Washington Post: "We're not going back to the world of couriers and letter-writing; we're going to continue to do things online. There are ways to do it where you can manage risk, and that's really what the goal should be here — to get to the point where we can have the efficiencies and the benefits and still be secure."
(Oops. Please disregard that paragraph. It's obvious this column was hacked and a non-Russian entity inserted a quote that runs contrary to Trump's view of the world. I apologize for the error. Next time I'll transmit my column via secure bike messenger.)
OK, getting back to the incoming administration's communication system, the big question is: Who will be President-elect Trump's courier?
Great news, everyone. I've found him.
After extensive prayer, thoughtful discussions with family and hours of horse riding lessons, I've decided to volunteer my services to help make America great again.
Why me, you ask?
First off, I'm the best at keeping secrets. My Uncle Harvey has been cheating on his wife with a Mike Ditka impersonator for the past five years, and I haven't told a soul. (Don't worry, Uncle Harvey, your dark secret's safe forever!)
Second, I'm looking for a higher-paying job, and I'm pretty sure underpaid couriers make more than underpaid newspaper columnists.
Third, and most important, I'm hoping to lose weight this year, and Trump Important Message Courier sounds like a gig that will keep me on the run.
After all, the president-elect thinks every message he sends — whether through Twitter or directly from his mouth — is very important. Probably hugely important. (Many say it's quite possibly the most important message of all time, truly.)
So I imagine the Important Message Courier would be hustling 24/7 delivering handwritten tweets to Trump's roughly 18.4 million Twitter followers and riding a horse across the ocean to deliver notes into the mouth of Russian President Vladimir Putin's pet wolf.
Count me in, Mr. President-elect. I will gladly hurl my unsafe hand computer at the nearest nerd and devote my time to securely delivering your missives, tucking them in my unhackable backpack and trotting your printed words wherever they need go.
As you said, no computer is safe. It's clear we need to get back to putting our most sensitive information in the hands of real people.
When has that ever gone wrong?
E-mail? Trump prefers a courier, sees risk in too much technology
WASHINGTON — As Barack Obama began preparing to leave office, the first smartphone-toting U.S. president ordered his team to upgrade the White House's aging technology for his successor. New computers were purchased and faster internet was installed.
Not included in the modernization plans? A courier service.
But that delivery method of a bygone era may be in for a comeback under Donald Trump. Despite his voracious use of Twitter, the president-elect appears to be leaning toward old tech to ensure the security of sensitive messages.
"It's very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way because I'll tell you what, no computer is safe," Trump told reporters Saturday in response to questions about Russia's alleged hacking of Democrats during the presidential election. Trump, who doesn't email or surf the internet, said days earlier that computers "have complicated lives very greatly."
Trump's skepticism of some technology marks a sharp contrast from the president he'll replace on Jan. 20. Obama, who was a youthful 47 years old when he took office, carries a specially outfitted Blackberry, emails with a small number of friends and aides, and has received some of his daily security briefings on an iPad. He celebrated technological innovations at an annual science fair, created the job of chief technology officer in the White House and viewed technology as key to making the sprawling federal government more efficient and responsive to the public.
A much less frequent Twitter user than Trump, Obama let loose Sunday with a volley of tweets highlighting some of his accomplishments as president: boosting clean energy, bringing troops home, delivering "the longest streak of job growth in our history," passing a law to make health care affordable, reducing dependence on foreign oil and working "to reaffirm that all are created equal."
But technology has also been a burden for Obama. Online sign-ups for his health care law were crippled by massive technical issues, resulting in one of the most embarrassing episodes of his presidency. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden stole classified information that he leaked to journalists, revealing the Obama administration's bulk collection of millions of Americans' phone records, as well as U.S. spying on some friendly foreign leaders.
Trump, 70, rarely uses a computer and sifts through stacks of newspapers, magazines and printed articles to read the news. He panned candidates' reliance on data and technology in presidential campaigns, preferring to make decisions in part based on the reaction from audiences at his rallies. While Trump's tweetstorms are already legendary, he utters some of his messages out loud and leaves the actual typing to aides.
Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he expects Trump to continue using Twitter and other social media sites as president, casting it as an effective way to communicate with Americans.
"Absolutely, you're going to see Twitter," Spicer said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." ''I think it freaks the mainstream media out — that he has this following of 45-plus million people that follow him on social media" and he "can have a direct conversation" with them.
Trump has shown some interest in technology since winning the White House. Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel has been working with Trump's transition team and could serve as an adviser to the administration. Trump met with several Silicon Valley executives last month, telling them his administration was "here to help you folks do well."
As Trump heads into the White House, some of the biggest questions surrounding his relationship with technology will involve security. U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and a top aide to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the election, exposing the vulnerabilities of systems in Washington. Revelations that Clinton used a personal email and private internet server during her four years as Obama's secretary of state highlighted the lax practices that exist in government.
As a candidate, Trump called for an immediate review of U.S. cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, though he has not detailed specific steps he plans to take to bolster cybersecurity and has not publicly accepted the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia was behind the election year hacking. Nor has Trump outlined any changes in the way he expects the White House to use technology for day-to-day work.
Bruce Schneier, a technology security expert, said Trump was right to question the safeguards that exist for protecting his own communications as president.
"If the Russian spies want to get at his data, no computer is probably safe," said Schneier, a fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. "Everything is vulnerable."
Of course, the courier system Trump suggests is hardly foolproof, either. After the U.S. killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, administration officials said they had gleaned crucial information on his whereabouts by tracking the al-Qaida leader's courier.