• A Bipartisan Step Toward Securing Our Election Infrastructure

    Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $250 million in funds to support state and local government efforts to strengthen election security ahead of the 2020 elections. The Committee’s action is an acknowledgment that securing elections from foreign interference is a bipartisan priority that requires more funding and continuous vigilance.

  • Spies and the White House Have a History of Running Wild Without Congressional Oversight

    For decades now, the evolving role of congressional oversight of U.S. intelligence has involved major clashes and scandals, from the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s to the intelligence abuses that led to the 2003 war in Iraq. Central to all of these clashes are attempts by intelligence agencies, the president and the executive branch to withhold damning information from Congress. Another common element is the use of civilians to carry out presidential or intelligence agency agendas.

  • Russia Targeted Election Infrastructure in All 50 States in 2016: Senate Intel Report

    On Thursday the Senate Intelligence Committee releases the first volume in the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russia’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections, dealing with Russia’s attacks on the U.S. election infrastructure. The Committee found that Russia targeted election systems in all 50 states in 2016. In the majority of cases, Russia’s attacks went undetected by the states and federal officials at the time. The report suggested that the Russian efforts in 2016 might have been cataloging options “for use at a later date” — a possibility that officials of the National Security Agency, DHS, and the FBI said was their biggest worry.

  • Dear Dems: Make Mueller’s Testimony About 2020, Not 2016

    If Congressional Democrats focus their questions of Robert Mueller on the past would be a big mistake. Democrats should make the 2020 election, not the 2016 election, the emphasis of their questions to Mueller and thus of his testimony. Democrats should focus in particular on two sets of questions that remain unaddressed by Mueller’s written report—and remain urgently important. First is the possible counterintelligence threat that Donald Trump represents. Mueller’s work addressed only one aspect of Trump’s Russia connection: possible criminal activity. But his report notes that his “investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission,” and further indicates that Mueller in fact uncovered such “information derived from the investigation, not all of which is contained in this Volume.” The second set of questions revolves around the threat to America’s 2020 election. Mueller’s investigation and assessment of a wide range of election-related issues surely yielded for him a detailed sense of the gaps in U.S. law and policy that were exploited by the Russians in 2016 and that remain ripe for exploitation by Moscow—and other hostile foreign actors—in the run-up to 2020.

  • FBI, FTC asked to examine whether FaceApp is a Kremlin’s data-collection tool

    FaceApp is a selfie app designed by a Russian programmer, which uses AI-like techniques to apply various changes to faces, making them look older or younger, adding accessories and even changing their race. On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) sent a letter to the FBI and Federal Trade Commission to investigate the data-collecting and data-retention mechanisms of the Russia-based app — and whether the “personal data uploaded by millions of Americans onto FaceApp may be finding its way into the hands of the Russian government.”

  • Bill Expands Compensation for Victims of Radiation Exposure

    Tens of thousands of individuals, including miners, transporters, and other employees who worked directly in uranium mines, along with communities located near test sites for nuclear weapons, were exposed during the mid-1900s to dangerous radiation that has left communities struggling from cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses.

  • Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Tackle Rising Threat of Deepfakes

    New bipartisan bill would require DHS secretary to publish annual report on the state of digital content forgery. “Deepfakes pose a serious threat to our national security, homeland security, and the integrity of our elections,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Washington), one of the bill’s sponsors.

  • Rectifying a wrong nuclear fuel decision

    In the old days, new members of Congress knew they had much to learn. They would defer to veteran lawmakers before sponsoring legislation. But in the Twitter era, the newly elected are instant experts. That is how Washington on 12 June witnessed the remarkable phenomenon of freshman Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Norfolk), successfully spearheading an amendment that may help Islamist radicals get nuclear weapons. The issue is whether the U.S. Navy should explore modifying the reactor fuel in its nuclear-powered vessels — as France already has done — to reduce the risk of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists such as al-Qaida or rogue states such as Iran. Luria says no. Alan J. Kuperman writes in the Pilot Online that more seasoned legislators have started to rectify the situation by passing a spending bill on 19 June that includes the funding for naval fuel research. They will have the chance to fully reverse Luria in July on the House floor by restoring the authorization. Doing so would not only promote U.S. national security but teach an important lesson that enthusiasm is no substitute for experience.

  • Hackback is back: Assessing the Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act

    The “hackback” debate has been with us for many years. It boils down to this: Private sector victims of hacking in some instances might wish to engage in self-defense outside their own networks (that is, doing some hacking of their own in order to terminate an attack, identify the attacker, destroy stolen data, etc.) but for the prospect that they then would face criminal (and possibly civil) liability under 18 USC 1030 (the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA).  Robert Chesney writes in Lawfare that a tricky question of policy therefore arises: Should the CFAA be pruned to facilitate hackback under certain conditions?  On one hand, this might produce significant benefits in terms of reducing harm to victims and deterring some intrusions. On the other hand, risks involving mistaken attribution, unintended collateral harms and dangerous escalation abound. It’s small wonder the hackback topic has spawned so much interesting debate (see here and here for examples).

  • Inside the secret dinners where Congress figures out how to stop a nuclear apocalypse

    Washington is home to countless private soirees and high powered dinner clubs, but there’s only one gathering devoted to nukes. They take place once every couple of months at a restaurant or townhome on Capitol Hill and are organized by former Democratic congressman John Tierney, who heads a group that advocates nuclear nonproliferation. Attendance is usually strong—at least a couple of dozen lawmakers show up—and they’re joined by experts like former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Sam Brodey writes in the Daily Beast that with global nuclear threats on the rise, and with Congress’ general knowledge of those threats on the decline since the end of the Cold War, those involved with the dinner say it’s more important than ever for lawmakers to have an informal venue where they can bolster their nuclear bona fides.

     

  • Climate-smart national flood insurance program

    Last month the Midwest faced historic floods that devastated rural communities, drowned farms, contaminated water supplies, and resulted in billions of dollars in damages. As climate change exacerbates the risk of these catastrophic flooding events, Congress can help citizens take these actions to adapt to the risks of climate change by adopting a package of climate-smart reforms for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

  • Trump declares national emergency

    President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency, bypassing Congress to build a wall along the southern U.S. border, and setting up a legal challenge that could help determine the limits of U.S. presidential power.

  • Can Congress or the courts reverse Trump’s national emergency?

    President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to pay for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, after Congress, in its new spending bill, denied him the full money to build it. Presidents generally claim emergency power two ways: through inherent or implied authority under the U.S. Constitution or under statutory authority granted by Congress. The U.S. Constitution says nothing specific about presidential emergency power: Presidents can only claim such authority is implied or inherent. The emergency powers the Constitution does describe are actually assigned to Congress. Congress has delegated some emergency powers to the president through statutes, including the National Emergencies Act. But Congress retains the power to reject a president’s declaration of a national emergency. Now the question is: Will Congress use the power available to it, or will it play the role of passive spectator?

  • Lawmakers tell Pentagon to redo climate change report

    Earlier this month, the Pentagon, in compliance with a congressional mandate, released a landmark report which identified the 79 American military installations most vulnerable to the “effects of a changing climate.” Several Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee welcomed the report – but at the same time harshly criticized it for failing to include details requested by Congress, among them the estimates by each of the armed services of the cost of protecting or replacing the ten most vulnerable military bases.

  • Rep. Rashida Tlaib criticized for Mid East office map which does not show Israel

    The office decorations of newly elected U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) include a wall map of the Middle East which does not show the State of Israel. The map, published by the Palestinian Authority, is used in Palestinian schools, and shows the area now the Palestinian territories as one political uinit called “Palestine.” Tlaib also came in for criticism for a Twitter post in which she appears to accuse member sof Congress who oppose the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement of dual loyalty.