Reviewing the Senate Hearing on Foreign Cyber Threats

 

Here is the C-Span link to the video of the Hearing. Here are the written individual statements of those testifying. Here is the joint statement of those testifying.

I wrote some notes from the Q&A with senators during the last two hours of the three-plus hour hearing:

General tone

  • The general tone of the questions and answers is to blame Russia, buttress the importance of intelligence agencies, and slander Wikileaks as untrustworthy. Looks like a setup to corner Trump and oppose his position of trimming the intelligence agencies, not believing the hacking attack, and retweeting Wikileaks.
  • Clapper comes across knowledgeable, as someone who fully understands the Washington system and his role he is to play in the hearing.
  • Adm. Rogers is coming across as a bureaucrat who is running an organization doing tasks he does not fully understand (he runs the NSA).
  • This hearing is a lovefest for the intelligence community. It is telling the intelligence community that these senators have their backs, and will resist Trump to trim these agencies.
  • They were careful to not claim the “hacking” impacted the actual election result. There was no attempt to de-legitimize the election of Trump.
  • Personal comment, most of these senators need to go.

References to Trump

  • They (Sens. McCaskill, Graham, Hirono, and Kaine) directly attacked Trump by name. Sens. Blumenthal and McCain by inference.

References to Obama

  • Two senators, including Graham, took the role in baiting those testifying to affirm how smart Obama was in expelling Russian diplomats.

Expand, not contract intelligence

  • Director of NSA, Adm. Rogers, agrees that he needs more resources.
  • Sen. Hirono gets Clapper and Rogers to agree more money is needed to raise cyber employee pay.
  • Clapper stated twice that the intelligence community needs to be put “on steroids.”

Blame Russia and Glass Houses

  • The senators generally clumped the influence of social media, fake news, cyber security, DCLeaks, WikiLeaks, and “hacking” into the same Russian hacking issue, speaking as if all were simply aspects of Russian operations.
  • Clapper directly claimed Russia was behind DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks.com.
  • Sen. Cotton brought up the illogic of claiming Russia would prefer Trump due to his policies harmful to Russia. He was the first senator to speak under age 60.
  • Sen. Inhofe tried to broaden the discussion to include China and others.
  • Clapper twice said those in glass houses should not throw rocks, because the US does espionage just like Russia and China. The senators were not hearing it and kept talking about punishing Russia for espionage.
  • The term “act of war” was bantered about recklessly by several senators in reference to Russian hacking.
  • Sen. Tillis pointed out that the US tried to influence elections in other countries 81 times.

Purpose of Meeting

  • I could be wrong, but seemed clear to me this event was timed for today (Thursday) to influence the optics of Trump’s meeting with the intelligence community tomorrow (Friday). The briefing with Trump was scheduled for Wednesday but was delayed. Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” It seems to me, the delay was to fit this televised live-feed Senate hearing on Thursday.
  • The hearing had these clear themes: Trump is recklessly disregarding the intelligence community, the intelligence community is great, the present leaders of the intelligence community are smart and competent, the intelligence community needs to be expanded not contracted, Russia hacked the political and media institutions and influenced the election (but did not hack the election directly), and US senators are smart and should guide Trump on how to improve the intelligence community.
  • The meeting ended with a call for legislators (themselves) to be involved in any re-focusing of the intelligence agencies.

Your thoughts?

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  1. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    You have done an excellent analysis of what is going on.  Thank you.

    • #1
  2. Sir Walter Valdez Inactive
    Sir Walter Valdez
    @SirWalterValdez

     

    I do export applications for equipment with encryption capabilities.   Our laws are based on 1970s dedicated hardware.  That’s why crypto libraries are downloaded from openssl.org site in Canada.  If site were in US, each download from out of country would break export laws.

    The illiteracy of our legislators, or perhaps their willingness to listen to only people with contributions, is evident – seems they have realized only recently that faster processors + different SW + higher network speeds = bad actors have same toys as NSA & other intel agencies, and these are used to implement dark parts of network & send unreadable emails even with infinite resources to crack (Shannon’s Theorem & Turing’s work on computability = time is in finite supply.)  Even legitimate actors like Mr. Podesta and the Party Of Science don’t bother to use PGP or other free tools.

    In other words, the Children Of Sputnik have fallen behind again, which may explain the clamor for H1B visas as much as economics.

    As I look at security of Ricochet site I am currently on, the server X.509 certificate public/private key is only 256 bits – not very strong.  We have a long way to go people. There is a debate in security community when 2048 bit keys will be unsafe and whether we should jump to 4094 right away.

     

    • #2
  3. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley
    @Wiley

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-01-05/russian-hacking-story-changes-again

    The moving of the goal posts to support the narrative.

    • #3
  4. livingthehighlife Inactive
    livingthehighlife
    @livingthehighlife

    Sir Walter Valdez (View Comment):
    The illiteracy of our legislators,

    I think this is one of the biggest contributions to our woeful security and intelligence laws.  Most Congress-critters grew up in a land full of party lines and Lily Tomlin as the telephone operator.  Cell phones and email are still futuristic to some of those dinosaurs.

    • #4
  5. Herbert Inactive
    Herbert
    @Herbert

    Thank you for the summary.   Trump dissing the IC and using Wikileaks as his reason seems absurd to me.   Isn’t it plausible that this is exactly why Putin favored Trump?

    • #5
  6. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Anything new actually learned, or just political posturing with Senators making long statements instead of asking actual questions?

    • #6
  7. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    The whole place needs a high colonic and an industrial flush after 8 years of Obama’s destructive policies.

    • #7
  8. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    -I have thought for some while that foreign trolls were making many of the attacks on those who didn’t support Trump.  That, with the inclusion of so much fake news aimed at the alt-right and right, leads me to believe that much of the meddling was aimed at them.  Since everyone assumed Hillary would win, fomenting anger on the right could lead to civil unrest and distrust in the government.  Trolling those who didn’t support Trump in a manner that would upset them and convince them to not vote for Trump could ensure Hillary would win and the other side would be angry.

    -I believe the wikileaks were aimed at weakening her image and angering the right further, hurting her credibility and weakening the country.  I don’t think they changed the outcome.  Had that been the wish, I am sure there were far more damaging things to leak but they were held in reserve for extorting behavior after she was elected.

    -I believe Hannity has become Assange’s useful idiot.

    -By riding this to de-legitimize Trump, the Dems have also become the useful idiots who enable the enemy to stir unrest and doubt in the country and its government.

    -BLM and other Marxist movements also are part of the scheme, no matter whether participants are schemers or pawns.

    • #8
  9. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    David Satter at Hudson is the only commentator I’ve seen who argues that the hacking and release by Wikileaks was done for Russian domestic consumption, i.e., to show the Russian electorate that Western elections are corrupt, and that they would have hacked no matter who was running. I find his argument convincing, particularly given his long career as an expert on Russia, which I believe included being expelled.  http://www.hudson.org/research/13199-neither-obama-sanctions-nor-new-trump-reset-changes-russia-s-goal

    • #9
  10. Rick Harlan Inactive
    Rick Harlan
    @Rick Harlan

    EHerring (View Comment):
    -I believe Hannity has become Assange’s useful idiot.

    Good to know that Sean has become useful. Seriously, though, I just can’t see the difference between Hannity and Palin jumping on the WikiLeaks bandwagon out of some cheap political expediency and Ted Kennedy cozying up to the KGB to get some advantage over Reagan.

    Good analysis overall, @eherring. Very interesting.

    • #10
  11. ToryWarWriter Reagan
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    It sounds like I probably know more about the NSA than the guy running it.

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    McCain and Graham . . . two Republican Senators we could do without if it only weren’t for the narrow margin.  If we (Republicans) ever get back up to the mid-fifties in the Senate, I may vote (in South Carolina) for the Democrat (if my primary candidate loses) in order to get Lindsey out.

    He knows this, and the establishment in SC knows this.  Graham was the overwhelming favorite when first elected to the Senate, but the margins in his primary wins have been shrinking.  If we could only get a solid primary challenger everyone can rally around (Nikki?  Strom jr?).

    • #12
  13. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Herbert (View Comment):
    Thank you for the summary. Trump dissing the IC and using Wikileaks as his reason seems absurd to me. Isn’t it plausible that this is exactly why Putin favored Trump?

    No.

    • #13
  14. EDISONPARKS Member
    EDISONPARKS
    @user_54742

    There is an exchange with McCain and Clapper intended to discredit the voracity of Julian Assange where in my opinion these  two knuckleheads inadvertently bolster the credibility of Assange.

    https://youtu.be/Hi9bw0iqV34

    If Assange did in fact accurately reveal the names of US covert operatives and endangered the operatives lives(something the reprobate Assange should be imprisoned for),  then one can only conclude that the information being exposed by Assange on Wikileaks is accurate and therefore entirely credible.

    How do McCain and Clapper then conclude that because Assange accurately exposed US covert operatives, then any information provided by Assagne is not credible?

    • #14
  15. Herbert Inactive
    Herbert
    @Herbert

    So how does this end well for Trump?   Can he continue to attack the CI?  Does he weaken them by cutting funding?  What happens when the next terrorist attack happens and Trump is seen as having not stood behind the CI?

    • #15
  16. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley
    @Wiley

    Senator Dan Coats was just selected by Trump as Director Of National Intelligence and would replace James Clapper. Coats spent much of his 16-year Senate career on the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, and would be a good intermediary with the Committee and Senate for Trump’s agenda. Seems like a mild middle of the road choice to me, but probably wise.

    • #16
  17. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I don’t think Trump’s goal is weakening the intelligence community, but just questioning the budget, effectiveness to date and modernizing it.  I don’t think any of that was on Obama’s list of “to do’s” since every freakin’ agency was hacked, from the WH to NSA, Pentagon, banks, domains, private companies etc.  His record , like everything else, is appalling. Why is it front page now – 2 weeks before he walks out the door?  I think Trump’s goal is to make sure the agency as all it needs and works efficiently.  It seems all federal departments are top heavy.  It is a shame this is front page news two weeks before O walks out the door.  If Hillary had won, it would not even be news.

    • #17
  18. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley
    @Wiley

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    I don’t think Trump’s goal is weakening the intelligence community, but just questioning the budget, effectiveness to date and modernizing it. I don’t think any of that was on Obama’s list of “to do’s” since every freakin’ agency was hacked, from the WH to NSA, Pentagon, banks, domains, private companies etc. His record , like everything else, is appalling. Why is it front page now – 2 weeks before he walks out the door? I think Trump’s goal is to make sure the agency as all it needs and works efficiently. It seems all federal departments are top heavy. It is a shame this is front page news two weeks before O walks out the door. If Hillary had won, it would not even be news.

    Wanted to see it in the comment stream twice.

    • #18
  19. erazoner Coolidge
    erazoner
    @erazoner

    It’s watching hearings like this that make me fear for my country.

    • #19
  20. Sir Walter Valdez Inactive
    Sir Walter Valdez
    @SirWalterValdez

    Don’t some folks think Clapper was padding the books on WMD in Syria because it didn’t fit the Rhodes-Obama narrative?  Isn’t this the Clapper who said under oath we were not subjected to data collection?  We’ve known about this hacking for months & all of a sudden a report is rushed out 15 days before transition?  And those of us who show some kind of doubt are pshaw’ed as Trump minions?  It’s a slam dunk, Mr. President!!!

    • #20
  21. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley
    @Wiley

    Stephen Coughlin’s book of “Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in Face of Jihad” documents the complete compromise of intelligence analysis to political correctness. Should not we not expect they are also compromised to political agendas.

    The intelligence agencies need over hauling. Trump is right.

    • #21
  22. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    This whole thing is a big fat nothingburger. What a disgrace.

    There’s no news here. Russians (Chinese, Iranians, Brits, Frenchies, friends, enemies..) spy on us. They simply had no way to predict how revealing what Podesta handed them on a silver platter would affect the election. The whole thing is ludicrous. The “election was hacked” by revealing some unflattering truth about Democrat operatives to the American people. Right.

    If these guys (senators and IC officials) were smart, they’d avoid cameras at all cost. Their officious harrumphing and pontificating makes us hate and mistrust them all the more.

    /speaking as someone notified when the OPM was hacked and my personal information was compromised. Incompetent boobs.

    • #22
  23. erazoner Coolidge
    erazoner
    @erazoner

    Wiley:

    • Sen. Cotton brought up the illogic of claiming Russia would prefer Trump due to his policies harmful to Russia. He was the first senator to speak under age 60.

    The Senate could use a little more cotton and a little less wool. I seriously doubt that anyone on that committee other than Sen. Cotton and perhaps a couple of others has even the slightest idea of what cyber security is all about.

    • #23
  24. BD Member
    BD
    @

    Thank you so much to National Review and the Weekly Standard for continuing to support/protect McCain and Graham.  Those two are gearing up to undermine the new Republican president the way they did the last one.

    • #24
  25. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley
    @Wiley

    The WSJ quoted Trump’s transition team as saying “The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world has become completely politicized,… They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.

    • #25
  26. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Wiley (View Comment):
    The WSJ quoted Trump’s transition team as saying “The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world has become completely politicized,… They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.

    However, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer has denied the WSJ quote. I think Trump is trying to calm the waters a bit…especially until he hears and deciphers the intelligence “proof” he is about to receive. Not that I don’t hope the quote is true, because it sure seems necessary to me. I have seen articles written by former agents that indicate our intelligence community spends 90% of its manhours in Washington D.C. Field work is reduced to minimum. It was interesting also that Tom Cotton is the only Senator that asked about the difficulty of discerning motive. We would need someone pretty close to Putin on the inside to determine that he actually ordered this activity and , importantly, he did so because he wanted to help Trump win. Motive is the key. Why would Putin rather have Trump as POTUS than Clinton? We could speculate all day long, but it sure seems that Putin pretty much did whatever the heck he wanted while Obama and Clinton and , for that matter, GW Bush, were in charge. If we had someone close enough to uncover motive, why blow his cover by making such a circus of all of this? That hearing was a circus.

    • #26
  27. DetteM Inactive
    DetteM
    @DetteM

    Well done!

    • #27
  28. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley
    @Wiley

    cdor (View Comment):
    However, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer has denied the WSJ quote.

    I always have trepidation when I quote mainstream media. You never know if the news is fake!

    • #28
  29. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    EDISONPARKS (View Comment):
    How do McCain and Clapper then conclude that because Assange accurately exposed US covert operatives, then any information provided by Assagne is not credible?

    Assange’s credibility is only as accurate as the information provided by the leakers of said information.  I doubt the people at Wikileaks can verify the truth in everything they publish, so their credibility would be destroyed if they ever published a provably false story.

    Many people have said the Democrats never denied the factual accuracy of their released e-mails, which is true.  All the Dems had to do was deny deny deny, and it would be hard to refute that.  My guess is the reason they didn’t deny the validity of the released e-mails was because they knew the leaker would then release something that proved them to be true.

    My bottom line?  We can use the released information about how the Democrat party does business to our advantage, but we should never forget the Assange also released info that resulted in the deaths of our operatives and informants in the Middle East.  He’s a double-edged sword . . .

    • #29
  30. EDISONPARKS Member
    EDISONPARKS
    @user_54742

    Stad (View Comment):

    EDISONPARKS (View Comment):
    How do McCain and Clapper then conclude that because Assange accurately exposed US covert operatives, then any information provided by Assagne is not credible?

    Assange’s credibility is only as accurate as the information provided by the leakers of said information. I doubt the people at Wikileaks can verify the truth in everything they publish, so their credibility would be destroyed if they ever published a provably false story.

    Many people have said the Democrats never denied the factual accuracy of their released e-mails, which is true. All the Dems had to do was deny deny deny, and it would be hard to refute that. My guess is the reason they didn’t deny the validity of the released e-mails was because they knew the leaker would then release something that proved them to be true.

    My bottom line? We can use the released information about how the Democrat party does business to our advantage, but we should never forget the Assange also released info that resulted in the deaths of our operatives and informants in the Middle East. He’s a double-edged sword . . .

    Agreed.

    My point was McCain and Clapper are a couple of numbskulls for inadvertently bolstering the credibility of Assange and Wikileaks by publicly announcing the information Assange/Wikileaks provided was in fact accurate.

    They could have said nothing on Assange/Wikileaks and done less damage.

    • #30
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