We Are At Cyberwar Part II

In my initial post on the US being in a cyberwar with Russia, on 26 July 2016, I wrote (emphasis mine):

One of the real concerns going forward, apart from embarrassing email chains with personally identifying information (PII) being posted on Wikileaks, is not just that Russian Intelligence can get in and look around and take information out of these systems in the US, but what happens if they decide to mess with what’s there? Voter registration information, voter donation information, electoral results, and more are all stored electronically. The next attack may not be interested in embarrassing staffers and causing a few days of reporting about what they wrote. Rather it might seek to remove voters from the rolls or change the reported results of an election in specific locations before they can be reported. And since our system is decentralized, securing all of it is going to be difficult and expensive.

Well what do you know?

From The Hill (emphasis also mine):

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released the unclassified version of its investigation into Russian cyberattacks on digital U.S. voting systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The report finds that Moscow conducted an “unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign” against the nation’s voting infrastructure. Through its investigation, the committee found that Russia-linked hackers were in a position to “alter or delete voter registration data” in a small number of states before the 2016 vote.

“In a small number of states, Russian-affiliated cyber actors were able to gain access to restricted elements of election infrastructure,” the report states. “In a small number of states, these cyber actors were in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data; however, they did not appear to be in a position to manipulate individual votes or aggregate vote totals.”

“The Committee saw no evidence that votes were changed and found that, on balance, the diversity of our voting infrastructure is a strength,” the report says. “However, the Committee notes that a small number of districts in key states can have a significant impact in a national election.”

Going forward all US election systems – voter registrations, voter rolls, recording of the actual vote, etc – must all be air gapped. They have to be either set up or backed up in such a way that the master information is only accessible via a secured or classified network – not the every day unclassified Internet. Additionally, every vote cast should be pen and paper. And non-partisan observers should be present during all voting and tallying and reporting of the vote totals. And all three of these activities should also be filmed so there is a record of voting, tallying, and reporting. Finally, there should be secured paper backups of everything. If we do these simple things we can safeguard and protect the integrity of our election systems and have faith in the outcome of our elections. Or we can have more 2016s.

Update at 11:30 PM EDT

Here’s the link to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence unclassified report.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.



Lazy Sunday Open Thread: Hey Trumpskies — Let’s You & Him Fight!

TBH, there is “no cohesive political core” to Trump, either. Apparently crow-mobbing the Clintons just isn’t as much fun any more (now that they’re getting actual pushback) so the Media Villagers have decided to try poking the Trump Regents to see if they’ll bite. Fun read, if you’re a cynic, or a Democrat:

President Trump is privately rejecting the growing consensus among Republican leaders that they may lose the House and possibly the Senate in November, leaving party officials and the president’s advisers nervous that he does not grasp the gravity of the threat they face in the midterm elections.

Congressional and party leaders and even some Trump aides are concerned that the president’s boundless self-assurance about politics will cause him to ignore or undermine their midterm strategy. In battleground states like Arizona, Florida and Nevada, Mr. Trump’s proclivity to be a loose cannon could endanger the Republican incumbents and challengers who are already facing ferocious Democratic headwinds.

Republicans in Washington and Trump aides have largely given up assuming the president will ever stick to a teleprompter, but they have joined together to impress upon him just how bruising this November could be for Republicans — and how high the stakes are for Mr. Trump personally, given that a Democratic-controlled Congress could pursue aggressive investigations and even impeachment.

The disconnect between the president — a political novice whose confidence in his instincts was grandly rewarded in 2016 — and more traditional party leaders demonstrates the depth of the Republicans’ challenges in what is likely to be a punishing campaign year.

Mr. Trump is as impulsive as ever, fixated on personal loyalty, cultivating a winner’s image and privately prodding Republican candidates to demonstrate their affection for him — while complaining bitterly when he campaigns for those who lose. His preoccupation with the ongoing Russia investigation adds to the unpredictability, spurring Mr. Trump to fume aloud in ways that divide the G.O.P. and raising the prospect of legal confrontations amid the campaign. And despite projecting confidence, he polls nearly all those who enter the Oval Office about how they view the climate of the midterms.

According to advisers, the president plans to hold a fund-raiser a week in the months to come and hopes to schedule regular rallies with candidates starting this summer. But there is not yet any coordinated effort about where to deploy Mr. Trump, and there are divisions within his ever-fractious circle of advisers about how to approach the elections.
Read more



The Maskirovka Slips XVI: Russian Intelligence Scouted In The US For Potential Wetwork Targets

From CNN:

Among the dozens of Russian diplomats the US expelled last month were suspected spies who US law enforcement and intelligence officials believe were tracking Russian defectors and their families who had resettled in the US, officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.

In at least one instance, suspected Russian spies were believed to be casing someone who was part of a CIA program that provided new identities to protect resettled Russians, the officials said.
That episode and other US intelligence raised concerns that the Russians were preparing to target Russian émigrés in the US labeled by the Kremlin as traitors or enemies, law enforcement and intelligence officials said.
The CIA declined to comment. The White House declined to comment.
The Russian embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

The Russian Intelligence Services are playing a very dangerous game here. And they are doing so with the full support of the Russian government:

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee produced a report earlier this year raised the issue of the suspicious deaths of more than two dozen critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin during his time in power. The Russian security services are suspected in many of the deaths, the report said, noting a Russian law passed “in July 2006 that permits the assassination of ‘enemies of the Russian regime’ who live abroad.”

Unfortunately the US government’s ability to respond is hindered by the partisan politicization of the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign. As Admiral Rogers, the outgoing Director of the NSA and the Commander of US Cyber Command, stated in February:

Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the departing head of the National Security Agency and the military’s Cyber Command, said that he was using the authorities he had to combat the Russian attacks. But under questioning during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he acknowledged that the White House had not asked his agencies — the main American spy and defense arms charged with conducting cyberoperations — to find ways to counter Moscow, or granted them new authorities to do so.

“President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay and that therefore ‘I can continue this activity,’” said Admiral Rogers, who is set to retire in April. “Clearly what we have done hasn’t been enough.”

Admiral Rogers’s testimony was the second time this month that a senior American intelligence official had said that Russia’s efforts to meddle in American elections did not end in 2016, and that the Trump administration had taken no extraordinary steps to stop them. He and other intelligence leaders warned two weeks ago on Capitol Hill that Russia was using a digital strategy to worsen political and social divisions in the United States, and all the intelligence chiefs said they had not been expressly asked by the White House to find a way to punish Russia for its efforts.

The comments by Admiral Rogers on Tuesday reflected what appears to be a widening gap between President Trump and the intelligence agencies he runs. While the president has mocked the notion of Russian meddling in the election he won, American intelligence officials are convinced of it, and they believe Russia is now looking to interfere in the midterm elections in November.

If we don’t get our acts together soon, Putin’s wetwork will definitively come to America and we’ll unfortunately get to find out just how the US and Americans react to this new and different form of state sponsored terrorism. Based on our response to the attacks on 9-11, I doubt the reaction will be much better this time.

Stay awake!

Open thread.



North Korea Said Something Last Night

I would love to give you a deep dive into all the possible meanings of last night’s statement from the official news organization of the North Korean government. But I don’t think I have time. Let me see how the morning goes.

There is some great commentary on Twitter. The short version is that North Korean statements are hard to figure out, and some aspects of this statement have been made before and then ignored by the North Korean leadership. North Korea is playing a complex game in courting South Korea and trying to split them from the US, setting themselves up to look like the good guys when John Bolton starts the war drums, and generally flummoxing Donald Trump before the summit. Kim is a sharp player.

Here is the meat of the statement:

And here are some of the people whose accounts you might want to look into for more (including Martyn Williams, above):

Wellerstein’s tweet is the start of a very thoughtful thread. Read more



Friday Morning Open Thread: James Comey Is Ready for His Close-Up

Happy Friday the Thirteenth! Michiko Kakutani has a well-earned reputation as a literary sharpshooter, and I’m genuinely grateful that the NYTimes brought her back to review this season’s “hot” political thriller:

“A Higher Loyalty” is the first big memoir by a key player in the alarming melodrama that is the Trump administration. Comey, who was abruptly fired by President Trump on May 9, 2017, has worked in three administrations, and his book underscores just how outside presidential norms Trump’s behavior has been — how ignorant he is about his basic duties as president, and how willfully he has flouted the checks and balances that safeguard our democracy, including the essential independence of the judiciary and law enforcement. Comey’s book fleshes out the testimony he gave before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017 with considerable emotional detail, and it showcases its author’s gift for narrative — a skill he clearly honed during his days as United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The volume offers little in the way of hard news revelations about investigations by the F.B.I. or the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (not unexpectedly, given that such investigations are ongoing and involve classified material), and it lacks the rigorous legal analysis that made Jack Goldsmith’s 2007 book “The Terror Presidency” so incisive about larger dynamics within the Bush administration.

What “A Higher Loyalty” does give readers are some near-cinematic accounts of what Comey was thinking when, as he’s previously said, Trump demanded loyalty from him during a one-on-one dinner at the White House; when Trump pressured him to let go of the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn; and when the president asked what Comey could do to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation.

There are some methodical explanations in these pages of the reasoning behind the momentous decisions Comey made regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign — explanations that attest to his nonpartisan and well-intentioned efforts to protect the independence of the F.B.I., but that will leave at least some readers still questioning the judgment calls he made, including the different approaches he took in handling the bureau’s investigation into Clinton (which was made public) and its investigation into the Trump campaign (which was handled with traditional F.B.I. secrecy).

“A Higher Loyalty” also provides sharp sketches of key players in three presidential administrations. Comey draws a scathing portrait of Vice President Dick Cheney’s legal adviser David S. Addington, who spearheaded the arguments of many hard-liners in the George W. Bush White House; Comey describes their point of view: “The war on terrorism justified stretching, if not breaking, the written law.” He depicts Bush national security adviser and later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as uninterested in having a detailed policy discussion of interrogation policy and the question of torture. He takes Barack Obama’s attorney general Loretta Lynch to task for asking him to refer to the Clinton email case as a “matter,” not an “investigation.” (Comey tartly notes that “the F.B.I. didn’t do ‘matters.’”) And he compares Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to Alberto R. Gonzales, who served in the same position under Bush, writing that both were “overwhelmed and overmatched by the job,” but “Sessions lacked the kindness Gonzales radiated.”…

As for his controversial disclosure on Oct. 28, 2016, 11 days before the election, that the F.B.I. was reviewing more Clinton emails that might be pertinent to its earlier investigation, Comey notes here that he had assumed from media polling that Clinton was going to win. He has repeatedly asked himself, he writes, whether he was influenced by that assumption: “It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don’t know.”…

It’s ironic that Comey, who wanted to shield the F.B.I. from politics, should have ended up putting the bureau in the midst of the 2016 election firestorm; just as it’s ironic (and oddly fitting) that a civil servant who has prided himself on being apolitical and independent should find himself reviled by both Trump and Clinton, and thrust into the center of another tipping point in history…



A Quick Housekeeping Note On The Michael Cohen News: This Is A Federal, Not A New York State, Investigation

Just a quick housekeeping note to clarify something important regarding the FBI executing a Federal search warrant on Michael Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room today. This is a Federal investigation. It is being conducted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, also known as the Southern District of New York or SDNY. According to reporting by Bloomberg, Special Counsel Mueller brought his investigatory concerns to Deputy AG Rosenstein who then determined that this should be handled by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, not the Office of the Special Counsel.

Mueller brought information involving Cohen to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who decided that the inquiry should be handled by federal prosecutors in New York, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Under Justice Department regulations, Mueller is required to consult with Rosenstein about how to handle evidence and matters that may fall outside his jurisdiction and authority. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, whether anyone close to Trump engaged in collusion and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice.

This is a Federal investigation. Michael Cohen is the target of this Federal investigation. It is not, based on reporting, as of now, a joint Federal/NY State investigation. I would expect that the NY state Attorney General Schneiderman will be asked to be read on in case there are parallel charges that would be more appropriately brought in NY state or, in case parts or all of the Federal investigation does not go forward, that could then be brought in NY state.

So just to reiterate: this is currently a Federal investigation being supervised/undertaken by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York as a result of guidance/instructions from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The current US Attorney for the Southern District of New York is Geoffrey S. Berman, who was appointed on an interim basis by Attorney General Sessions on behalf of the current President and assumed his current office in January 2018.

My guess is that in addition to all the other news that broke today, this story is going to continue to develop through the evening and into tomorrow.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.



Loving You Both Is Breaking All the Rules

I think some of you nerds like science fiction. I do too. Let me weave a dystopian tapestry before your wondering eyes and you can tell me what you think.

The year is 2020. There are now flying cars and cheeky robot companions. You have neither of these things. You have a slightly fancier phone and a couple of new shirts.

Your state’s primary has been pushed to the end of the season and its outcome will be pivotal. Democratic primary voters have said they will not go to Cochella. They will not go to Bonaroo. They won’t even go to Lollapalooza. The voters in the other 49 states have proclaimed that they want Paul Revere and the Raiders or The American Breed. This tortured analogy is trying to tell you they want Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders.

Let’s say that Joe has stayed his course  as the WWWC (Wooer of the White Working Class) candidate. Bernie has staked out the leftmost pragmatic position on all of your favorites: Healthcare, education, minimum wage, full employment.

And there you are, in the voting booth. Between Scylla and Charybdis. For whom do you pull the lever?

While you muse on this bummer episode of The Twilight Zone, please observe what I have in my other hand: It’s the fund that’s split between all eventual Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer