Donald Trump’s ‘Executive Time’ leak – journalists retype documents to protect White House source

A lesson learnt from Reality Winner’s unmasking.

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Donald Trump's 'Executive Time' leak - journalists retype documents to protect White House source

Axios has got itself quite a scoop today – publishing US President Trump’s personal schedule from early November 2018 to February 1 2019.

According to Axios the schedules indicate that Trump has spent “around 60% of his scheduled time over the past 3 months in unstructured ‘Executive Time.'”

Schedule breakdown

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Such a leak is likely to anger Trump and the White House, of course, and so Axios had to be careful not to throw their source under the bus.

In June 2017, The Intercept published a top secret NSA document detailing Russia’s efforts to meddle in the US Presidential election.

Unfortunately for 26-year-old government contractor Reality Winner, the NSA logs its print jobs and – as with most modern printers – includes nearly invisible microdots on printed documents to make it easier for law enforcement to trace their origin.

In August 2018, Reality Winner was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for leaking classified information.

Whoever leaked three months’ worth of Donald Trump’s personal schedule to journalists will sleep a little easier, I would imagine, knowing that Axios didn’t make the same mistake as The Intercept – and “retyped the schedules in the same format that West Wing staff receives them.”

That would have been a right pain for Axios to do. It would have been a lot easier for them just to digitise hard copies of the schedules, but that might have meant tell-tale clues pointing towards who leaked them could have tumbled out.

It would have been quicker for Axios to not retype the documents as well – and in the 24-hour news cycle revolving around the Trump administration they might have felt some pressure to get the story out as quickly as possible.

But the Axios journalists still took effort to reduce the chances of their source being uncovered.

Whether a White House investigation will reveal who the leaker was in the future remains to be seen, but for now Axios appears to be a shining example for others in the media about how to protect their sources.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

5 comments on “Donald Trump’s ‘Executive Time’ leak – journalists retype documents to protect White House source”

  1. Joe

    If this schedule is considered as classified information, then I would hope that the White House would go to Axios and arrest those responsible for releasing this information. Put them in a cell next to Reality Winner.

    1. A Gal Who Pays Attention · in reply to Joe

      Agree, Joe. We do not even know the extent to which this stuff involves truth. But Cluley, like much of the left-leaning media, falls for the nonsense. You'd expect a tad more objectivity from a guy who claims to offer computer security advice.

      Of course, he tags on the "opinion" thingee so I suppose he is free to expose his own gullibility and willingness to be a stooge for the left. But it appears he is happy to play that role.

      Not sure if any readers have listened to his podcast. I've tried a couple and it is just so amateur that I wonder whether anyone continues listening.

      1. Even if you don't appreciate my opinions, and can't bear my podcast, I appreciate you taking the time to drop by from time to time to leave your opinion here.

        Just be thankful that you're not paying me a penny for the privilege – and all this writing and podcasting I do for you is at no charge.

        I'm always looking to improve – which podcasts do you like?

  2. Don

    Bunch of right wingers getting all huffy about Trump's schedule release. Shows that he spends most of his days watching the rubbish on Fox News. Graham Cluley is not a left leaning publisher. A Gal Who Pays Attention should pay more attention before spouting this nonsense. She probably is a Trump worshiper who believes his fake news BS.

    1. Joe · in reply to Don

      One Trump Right Winger is worth more then 1000 Leftist I hate America Liberal Democrats.

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