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During President Trump’s Wednesday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, a photographer from a Russian state-owned news agency was let into the Oval Office. No American press were granted access to the Oval Office for the same meeting.

The highly unusual move raised alarm from former U.S. intelligence officials who believe it could have risked a security breach.

According to The Washington Post, “The officials cited the danger that a listening device or other surveillance equipment could have been brought into the Oval Office while hidden in cameras or other electronics.”


Other officials pointed out that the access given to the photographer could have been a lapse in security, as the standard screening used for White House guests would have not detected a sophisticated spying device.

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The concern arose after pictures from the president’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov surfaced online after being posted by the TASS state news agency.

On Twitter, Former Deputy Assistant to President Obama Colin Kahl posed the question, “Was it a good idea to let a Russian gov photographer & all their equipment into the Oval Office?” to which former Deputy CIA Director David S. Cohen replied, “No, it was not.”

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The White House downplayed the situation, saying that the photographer “had to go through the same screening as a member of the U.S. press going through the main gate to the [White House] briefing room.”
However, the administration also admitted that they had been misled on the photographer’s role, saying, “We were not informed by the Russians that their official photographer was dual-hatted and would be releasing the photographs on the state news agency.”

Concern about the possibility of Russian-planted surveillance devices is not unwarranted, given that in 1990 the State Department discovered a Russian listening device in a conference room where then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright often held meetings.

Carlin Becker About the author:
Carlin Becker is an Associate Content Editor at Rare. Follow her on Twitter @_carlbeck.
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