Full Text: A blog, “Shine Liberia,” claimed that the live Facebook tour given to journalists at the Liberia Executive Mansion posed security threats to the executive building and presidency. The blog asserts that even the American White House, which has the strongest security systems in place, forbids the use of phones and doesn’t allow live broadcasting.

The claim: “Presidential Press Secretary exposes Liberia Executive mansion to Security Threat after she took Scores of journalists on live-streaming tour 🏙️ inside the Mansion – Even the White House has all the best security systems yet they don’t allow phones, not to mention going live! Shine Liberia, was Presidential Press Secretary Kula Fofana right or wrong? Job too big for this girl.”

Reporters assigned to the Executive Mansion were given access to go live on Facebook on March 1, 2024, by Presidential Secretary Kula Fofana and an array of tour guides. Some live videos are here, here and here

As of the time of this check, the post by the blog has attracted 149 reactions, 148 comments, and 3 shares  

The Executive Mansion was constructed from 1960 to 1963. The project was designed and supervised by the Department of Public Works and Utilities (Ministry of Public Works ) and Stanley Engineering Company of Africa. At the same time, the construction contractor was Liberian Construction Corporation (LCC).

The project was officially dedicated on January 3, 1964. The Executive Mansion is the seat of the Executive Branch of the Government of the Republic of Liberia. 

Since the completion of the Executive Mansion in 1963, there have been three major rehabilitation works executed on the composite building elements and systems.

The first renovation and rehabilitation work was executed in 1988–1989 under the government of the late President Samuel K. Doe and the second renovation work was executed during former President Charles G. Taylor’s tenure in 1997–1998.

The Executive Mansion has been under renovation since 2006 after it was gutted by fire on the fourth floor on July 26, when former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was hosting her foreign counterparts who had come to celebrate Liberia’s Independence Day.

The mansion has been vacant for the past 16 years, with successive budgetary allocations in the National Budget. However, the renovation is yet to be completed.

In early 2016, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf requested the General Auditing Commission (GAC) conduct an audit of the Executive Mansion renovation project as provided for under the statutory mandate of the Auditor General under Section 2.1.3 of the GAC Act of 2014.

The GAC, in its findings, observed a waste of over US$10 million on the Executive Mansion renovation project. The audit covered July 1, 2006, to December 31, 2015.

Verification: In the live Facebook feed, the tour guide said the journalist would only tour the ground floor and then the fifth floor, adding that the fourth floor is exempt because it is occupied.

TSM then looked into the blog’s claim and discovered a 2018 White House memo published by ABC News titled,  “Kelly bans personal phones, smart watches from West Wing.” 

The Chief of Staff, John Kelly, explained the administration’s new policy prohibiting the use of personal cell phones within the White House’s West Wing complex as a way to strengthen cyber security measures and reinforce efforts to stop media leaks.

Information on personal phones and smart equipment can also be found in New York Magazine and here

Security expert Togba Emmanuel says it is not a good idea to go live at the executive mansion, especially in unrestricted locations at the mansion.

“It comes with a huge cyber security risk that can incentivize security compromise, which includes intrusion, bulking, and all forms of sophisticated hacking. It is a way of sharing information that divulges the vulnerabilities of the presidency. “

He continues, “Fraudsters use sophisticated tools to scan through and change information and can even see information you think was removed from a video. They can easily manipulate these details to commit fraud and infiltration since security features like exit doors, lock systems, and guards’ placement are exposed. What is more, given today’s climate of terrorism, insurrection, surveillance, and counter-surveillance dynamics, the showcase of biochemical supremacy, and other functional negative digital interventions, it is not a good idea to go live in the office of the Presidency.”

Conclusion: According to TSM research, it is forbidden to bring personal cameras, smartwatches, laptops, or phones into the White House. In other words, these items may be permitted only if they are official; thus, Shine Liberia’s claim that the White House banned phones is partially correct, but there is no evidence that live streaming is prohibited.


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