• Russia's Disinformation War Is Just Getting Started

    The disinformation wars are only just getting started, warns a new report on Russian social media interference released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Published last week, the report offers the most comprehensive look at the efforts of the Russian propaganda factory known as the Internet Research Agency to divide Americans, undermine public faith in the democratic process, and aggressively support Donald Trump before and after the 2016 election. Paris Martineau writes in Wired that in addition to affirming much of what had been reported about Russian online interference over the past three years—including in Robert Mueller’s sweeping indictment of the IRA in February 2018—the report offers a comprehensive look at the extent of past foreign influence operations and recommendations on how best to prepare for those yet to come. It’s the second volume to come out of the Senate Intel Committee, though this one is “much more detailed in its analysis, meticulously cited, and concerned with influence and impact,” says one expert. “The conclusions in the second volume are notably bolder and unequivocal in supporting academic research and the advisory groups’ findings. It reads like a different report altogether.”

  • Amid Questions of Legality on Delaying Ukraine Aid, White House Shifted Authority: Report

    The White House earlier this year authorized a politically appointed official to withhold military aid meant for Ukraine after budget staff members questioned the legality of delaying the congressionally approved funds, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. After the OMB’s budget staff members questioned Trump’s blocking of the congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine, Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs in OMB, was given the authority to continue holding the funds. Duffey was previously a high-ranking Pentagon official and the executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party. Former OMB officials told the Journal that it’s highly unusual for a political officer like him to gain such power.

  • Senate Intel Committee: Russia Is Already Trying to Influence the 2020 Election

    In recent months, President Donald Trump has intensified his efforts to advance the lies spread by the Kremlin and undermine the U.S. intelligence community consensus that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. On July 25, Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to help push a Russian and far-right conspiracy theory that the U.S. cybersecurity company Crowdstrike worked with Ukranians and Democrats to frame Russia for election meddling. Patrick Tucker writes in Defense One that one important contribution of the second report on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, issued by the Republican-led Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is that the committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), is decisively refuting Trump and his conspiracy theory.

  • 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.