Mattis considers cellphone ban at Pentagon

US Defence Secretary James Mattis has expressed concerns about recent incidents in which Defence Department workers brought their personal phones into restricted areas in the Pentagon. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - An ongoing review of policies governing the use of personal electronic devices at US military sites in America and around the world could lead to a ban on the use of non-government cellphones at the Pentagon, according to defence officials.

The review was ordered before an exercise-logging company recently published an online map revealing potentially sensitive information about the locations and activities of US and allied troops in places including Iraq and Syria.

A probe into troops' use of wearable fitness trackers, such as Fitbits, will be rolled into the existing review, the officials said.

Defence Secretary James Mattis had ordered the review to determine the security risks posed by personal electronic devices, reported military newspaper Stars and Stripes, citing officials who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter.

Mattis has expressed concerns about recent incidents in which Defence Department workers brought their personal phones into restricted areas in the Pentagon, one official said on Wednesday (Jan 31).

There is no cell signal in the majority of the building and rooms with classified and sensitive information as well as computers require those entering to place their cell phones in an outside box or locker prior to entry. according to the CNN.

A Pentagon spokesman declined to confirm or deny that the ongoing review included considerations to ban personal phones inside the Pentagon, where nearly 30,000 service members, civilians and contractors work.

"We take threats to security seriously and are always looking into any potential additional measures to further enhance the security of our of Department of Defence personnel," Army Major Audricia Harris said in a statement.

A defence official told CNN that the intelligence about the risk of cell phone vulnerabilities that drove the Pentagon's review is the same intelligence that helped lead to a similar ban of personal cell phones among White House staffers in the West Wing, a ban that went into effect last month (Jan).

CNN reported those restrictions were the brainchild of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired four-star general who served alongside Mattis in the Marine Corps for decades.

Personal cellphones and other electronic devices are already banned in certain locations at military sites around the world, including all secure locations where classified information is handled.

Military commanders, additionally, have the ability to ban cell phones from other locations, officials said.

One official said a total ban on personal cellular devices in the Pentagon would create logistical challenges and would be difficult to enforce, reported Stars and Stripes.

The biggest challenge to implementing a ban, reported the CNN, would be that of having to install lockers or other means to allow staff to store their personal electronic devices upon entering the building.

Two officials told CNN one possible remedy will be tighter enforcement of the rules that are already in place, with one official saying that additional screening technology could be placed at the entrances of those classified areas to prevent cell phones from being brought in.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.