A band of Republicans with a theatrical bent have stormed the room where the House Intelligence Committee is holding its impeachment hearings. Questioning of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper was halted and remains halted as Republicans, led by Florida representative Matt Gaetz, remain in the room eating pizza, according to CNN.
Update: This group of about 20 House Republicans is barging into the SCIF. pic.twitter.com/IZQ8J4YSNq
— Sam Brodey (@sambrodey) October 23, 2019
The real reason the hearings have been halted may have more to do with security than with political showmanship, protocol break, and general rudeness. The Democrat-led committee meets in a secure room called a SCIF, or security compartmented information facility. As one former SCIF employee notes on Twitter, all who enter to hear testimony must leave their phone in a locker outside the room.
INSIDE THE ROOM: Rep. Connolly said two-dozen Republicans “stormed” into the SCIF, delaying the start of the Cooper deposition.
He said a few, including Rep. Gohmert, were “screaming,” and all brought phones into the secure SCIF room. (Rep. Conaway ended up collecting them.)
— Ben Siegel (@benyc) October 23, 2019
That’s because cellphones are considered “high value” targets for foreign intelligence agents. “Foreign adversaries are constantly trying to figure out what goes on inside those rooms to figure out what the US knows about them, to out US high-level sources in their governments, to know what the US government knows and use it against us,” tweets Mieke Eoyang, who once worked in the same secure hearing room for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Eoyang explains that, after a security breach happens, a set of countermeasures must be completed to make sure the room hasn’t been compromised. That costs time and taxpayer money.
So, to recap:
To disrupt testimony from a DOD official on how the President endangered national security for both the US and Ukraine by withholding military aid, the President's allies further endangered national security by storming the SCIF with their electronic devices.
— Mieke Eoyang (@MiekeEoyang) October 23, 2019
“. . . in “storming the SCIF” without observing the security protocols, Rep. Gaetz et al, endangered our national security and demonstrated they care more about a political stunt than protecting intelligence information,” Eoyang tweets. “I cannot emphasize enough how serious this is.”
The military also uses SCIFs for sensitive hearings. If someone enters a military SCIF with a potential listening device, it’s considered treason.