Pentagon unveils new policy restricting some cellphone use

Pentagon unveils new policy restricting some cellphone use
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The Pentagon is tightening some of its policies on the use of mobile devices in the Pentagon, but will continue to allow cellphones to be brought into the building after a months-long review on the issue, according to a Defense Department memo released Tuesday.

The new policy sets new restrictions for cellphones and some electronic devices in Pentagon areas designated for processing, handling or discussing classified information, according to the document, which was first obtained by The Associated Press and later released publicly.

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The memo, signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, notes that cellphones can still be used in common areas and other Pentagon offices if classified information is not present.

It also appears to make clear the current practice that requires phones be left in “daily-use storage containers that are located outside the secure space” where sensitive materials are handled or discussed.

The memo comes after Defense Secretary James Mattis in January weighed a ban on allowing civilian employees at the Pentagon to bring their personal cellphones.

The review was prompted in part by a small number of cases in which employees brought their personal phones into classified areas. The analysis also looked at whether the Pentagon’s policy on wearable electronics needed to be updated following reports that suggested that an app that maps users' running routes could create a security risk for personnel on military bases.

That controversy came after GPS reporting company Strava published a global heat map based on user exercise routes. The map showed running routes of soldiers on remote and classified U.S. military bases.

The memo’s guidelines — which apply to the Pentagon’s DOD personnel, contractors and Pentagon visitors — cover “laptops, tablets, cellular phones, smartwatches, and other devices” that are portable, can wirelessly transmit information and have “a self-contained power source.”

The policy doesn’t apply to any “mobile devices that have minimal storage and transmission capabilities such as key fobs used for medical alert, motor vehicles, or home security systems.”

It also doesn’t apply to “fitness trackers that do not contain camera, microphone, cellular, or Wi-Fi technology,” but those devices will be addressed in still-under-development policy.

Medical devices with cellular technology, meanwhile, must be approved on a case-by-case basis.

The memo notes several exceptions, including the use of government-issued cellphones by senior officials in secure spaces if the camera, microphone and wireless capabilities are turned off.

All personal mobile devices, however, must be turned off and placed in storage containers located outside secure areas. All secure areas must have the storage boxes outside them, with clear signage, the policy stipulates.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency “will randomly conduct security inspections in and around classified spaces to monitor compliance,” and violators will be punished with possible fines or loss of security clearance.

The new rules take effect immediately and must be fully implemented within six months.