More than half of U.S. Senators accepted taxpayer-funded emergency satellite phones as part of a series of new security measures implemented after the January 6 Capitol riot.
According to a CBS report, approximately 50 out of 100 sitting members of Congress received the technology amid growing concerns about hometown security risks or in the case of an emergency that could wipe out communications in the U.S.
During testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee last month, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson said officials would deploy satellite communication “to ensure a redundant and secure means of communication during a disruptive event.”
Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory saying that such mobile phones are used for emergency communications during natural disasters or man-made incidents, including potential chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive events.
“Satellite mobile phones can help maintain command and control functions during an emergency when existing communications networks are not functioning,” the advisory reads. “These phones are designed to be relatively rugged and simple to operate, but are more expensive than cell phones to buy and use.”
Gibson reportedly also opened an office “demonstration space” in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building, which offers lawmakers and staff security upgrades in their home state, including “duress buttons,” mail screening devices, and safety glass to reduce the risk of attacks, CBS reported.
“Our team provided initial physical security enhancements for 31 offices and improved existing security for 52 others in 2022,” she said in testimony. “Maintaining security systems in good working order is a priority, and to support this effort our team conducted over 622 service calls to maintain, repair, and or test and inspect state office physical security systems in 2022.”
House Sergeant at Arms William McFarland told legislators in April that a “robust participation” program that coordinates with local police departments is underway to allow Capitol Police protection for House members outside of Washington, D.C., as part of a bill passed by Congress in 2022.
The legislation required security administrators to “enhance member protection including providing a security program for Congressional Leadership, expanding Dignitary Protection Division services and expanding USCP field office presence,” the bill reads, according to CBS.
Conservative commentator Rogan O’Handley, known as @DC_Draino on social media platforms, expressed concerns over the report.
“Many are worried a cyber attack prior to the 2024 election would be used to justify changes in voting procedures that will benefit Joe Biden,” O’Handley said. “Today we learned that U.S. Senators are being issued special satellite phones for this exact scenario. Not good.”
Many are worried a cyber attack prior to the 2024 election would be used to justify changes in voting procedures that will benefit Joe Biden
Today we learned that US Senators are being issued special satellite phones for this exact scenario
— DC_Draino (@DC_Draino) May 22, 2023