Friday, January 6, 2017

From the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services: A hearing on "Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States"

Here's a link for more information related to the hearing below.

Aside for general information related to the specific question about possible Russian hacking during the 2016 election, it also offers 2305 students a look at one of the central functions of a congressional committee - the holding of hearing related to issues within the jurisdiction of the committee.

- Click here for the page dedicated to the hearing.

The witnesses provide an indication of what types of executive officials engage in activities within the jurisdiction of the committee. These positions are:

1 - The Director of National Intelligence.
2 - The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.
3 - United States Cyber Command.
4 - National Security Agency.
5 - Central Security Service.

Here is information about the witnesses:

1 - James R. Clapper.
2 - Marcel J. Lettre.
3 - Michael S. Rogers.

These of course are people affiliated with the Obama Administration, In a later post I'll highlight the people Donald Trump has appointed to replace them.

Lawfare published an assessment of the hearing. The author points out how cordial and respectful members of the committee were towards the witnesses, and the intelligence community in general. This is in sharp contrast to comments by Trump.

- Click here for What Yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee Portends.

While John McCain, the committee chairman, was unspairing in his criticism of the Obama administration for not developing a cyber deterrence strategy, his demeanor towards the DNI was one of profound respect and cordiality. Others too made a point of thanking Clapper for his long service in various intelligence capacities and across administrations.
The message here was not merely one of fondness for the man himself, though that was evident at times; it was a way of conveying admiration and respect for the intellingence community that he and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers were there representing. Sometimes, this linkage was explicit. At one point, Clapper was asked to describe his career and its apolitical nature and was asked pointedly whether it was representative of others in the community. He was asked, more than once, for his opinion of Julian Assange and about how Assange is regarded within the community. (Needless to say, Clapper’s not a fan.) Nor was the love fest purely emanating from the Democratic side. The hearing, pretty much wall to wall, showcased the committee’s confidence in the intelligence community as a set of institutions with integrity. At a time when that integrity is under fire from the President-elect, it was a powerful statement.

Indeed, no defense of Trump’s position emerged in any significant way from any member of the committee. To be sure, Sen. Tom Cotton raised the question of whether Trump will be worse for Russia than Hillary Clinton would have been, given his commitment to increased defense spending. And he asked questions that aimed to clarify the relatively narrow scope of the IC’s findings with respect to Russia. Sen. Thom Tillis, doing his best imitation of Noam Chomsky, declared that “there is research done by a professor up at Carnegie Mellon that is estimating that the United States has been involved one way or another in 81 different elections Since World War II. That is not including the coups or regime changes. And Russa has done it 36 times.” But Tillis's Chomskyism was fainthearted and short-lived, and no Republican on the committee stood up for the proposition that the hack may not have been a Russian effort to influence the election. Mostly, Republican senators who weren’t leading the charge contented themselves instead with asking the witnessess about other foreign cybersecurity concerns.
And some GOP senators were really on fire. Sen. McCain set the tone when he opened the hearing by declaring that “there’s no escaping the fact that this committee meets today for the first time in this new Congress in the aftermath of an unprecedented attack on our democracy.”

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