Tag Archives: cyber security

Election security becomes a highly critical ‘back story’

An essential element of the impeachment and Senate trial of Donald John Trump, the current president of the United States, is being pushed toward the back of the proverbial shelf.

I refer to election security. Specifically, the security of our sacred rite of citizenship against foreign interference.

You know the story. Russia attacked our electoral system in 2016, the same day that Donald Trump invited the Russians to look for the “missing emails” produced by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was Trump’s presidential campaign foe that year.

Then the president, immediately after Robert Mueller III released his findings into a two-year-long investigation into the Russia hack and interference, placed a phone call to Ukrainian President Volodyrmyr Zellenskiy. He asked Zellenskiy for a “favor,” which was to launch an investigation into Joe Biden, a potential foe for Trump in 2020. Yes, the president asked a foreign government for political help. He wants to “cheat” his way to re-election.

How in the name of cybersecurity can we stand by and let this happen?

I am acutely aware that government cyber geeks are hard at work trying to provide fool-proof locks against this kind of intrusion. What troubles me in the extreme is that the individuals at the highest levels of our government are stone-cold silent on this matter.

Donald Trump, the intended beneficiary of the 2016 Russian election attack, continues to dismiss the interference. He disparages intelligence analyses that says, “Yes, the Russians did it!” He calls that phone call to Zellenskiy “perfect.”

It was “perfect” only insofar as he delivered a clearly defined message to a foreign head of state. He wanted a “favor” and asked that government to attack our electoral system — again! 

What measures are we taking to protect our election system throughout its massive network?

So … what about cyber security?

Those nagging, knotty questions about cyber security keep recurring.

Robert Mueller’s legal team has indicted 12 Russian goons for conspiring to meddle in our 2016 election. Vladimir Putin, the Russian strongman, likely ordered it. Our intelligence brass has concurred, as has the intelligence arms of our major allies.

Donald Trump hasn’t yet acknowledged the existential threat to our electoral system. What’s more, the Russians likely are seeking to screw up our 2018 midterm elections, too.

Back to a question I have posed before: Where is our cyber security reform?

About a decade ago, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, gave my former congressman, Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican, the task of developing a way to protect our nation’s cyber network.

Thornberry’s all-GOP task force issued a detailed report. Then they were done. They all went back to doing whatever it is they do.

As the nation wrings its hands over cyber security and wonders how it is going to protect its secrets from foreign foes — such as Russia — I haven’t heard a sound from Rep. Thornberry!

Speaker Boehner spoke quite highly of Thornberry’s skill in leading this reform effort, if my memory serves me. Yes, Thornberry is a smart fellow.

But what in the world are we doing to deter the kind of manipulation and possibly decisive meddling that occurred in 2016? Have there been improvements to our cyber network to prevent future interference?

The fellow who used to represent me in the U.S. House of Representatives presumably led the effort to make us safer against such meddling. Didn’t he?

What about ‘Russia,’ Mr. President?

I didn’t expect Donald Trump to bring up “the Russia thing” during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

It would have required a suspension of disbelief to assume the president would say that a “year of the Russia probe is enough.” He wasn’t about to elevate special counsel Robert Mueller’s accelerated investigation into alleged collusion with Russian hackers by the Trump presidential campaign.

But I was hoping at some level that the president might bring up Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election at some level. Perhaps he could have at least pledged to protect our electoral process against actual or perceived foreign meddling, against those who would hack into our process and seek to determine an outcome they preferred.

He didn’t even have to acknowledge what the U.S. intelligence community has determined — that Russia did meddle in our 2016 election.

Contrary to the assertions of the White House press office, the Russia meddling is on the minds of millions of Americans who are concerned about what effect it might have had on the outcome. I am not yet convinced that the Russian hacking into our system was decisive, that they actually tilted the election in Trump’s favor.

Whether the Russians succeeded in their aim, though, misses the point. The point — as I get it — is that they did what they did and put the integrity of our system of “free and fair elections” in jeopardy.

That amounts to an act of open hostility by our nation’s preeminent international adversary.

And isn’t the president supposed to protect us against such assaults on our democratic system? Shouldn’t the president declare his intention to stop such interference in the future? And shouldn’t he put the international perpetrators on notice?

Donald Trump was silent on that matter.


Cyber security remains a (pipe) dream

CIA Director Mike Pompeo has issued a dire warning, which is that it is a near certainty that Russia is going to try meddling in our 2018 midterm election.

Yep, just like they did in the 2016 presidential election, the event that the president of the United States — Donald John Trump Sr. — keeps denying publicly.

Mr. President, please talk to the CIA boss. He knows more about this stuff than you do.

However, I keep circling back to an initiative that was launched in 2011 in Congress. It was designed to improve cyber security and was to be led by my own member of Congress, Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry.

House Speaker John Boehner appointed Thornberry to lead a select committee to iron out the wrinkles in our nation’s cyber security system. It’s interesting to me that this was a GOP-only panel, comprising just Republican members of the House. I guess Thornberry and Boehner didn’t think there were any Democrats who could contribute to what ought to be a bipartisan/non-partisan concern.

Thornberry said in a statement after the panel’s work was done:

Cyber is deeply ingrained in virtually every facet of our lives.  We are very dependent upon it, which means that we are very vulnerable to disruptions and attacks.  Cyber threats pose a significant risk to our national security as well as to our economy and jobs.

At least 85 percent of what must be protected is owned and operated by the private sector.  Government must tread carefully in this area or risk damaging one of our greatest strengths — dynamic, innovate companies and businesses that are the key to our economy and to cybersecurity advances.

A “significant threat to our national security.” Yep, Rep. Thornberry, that is so very correct.

That threat presented itself in the 2016 election. There remain myriad questions about whether the Donald Trump campaign played a role in that threat. We’ll know the answer in due course, once the special counsel, Robert Mueller, finishes his work.

However, I do believe it’s fair to wonder: With all the work that Rep. Thornberry’s committee did to improve cybersecurity, did it do enough to protect our electoral system from the hanky-panky that came from this country’s preeminent foreign adversary?

I do not believe it did.

Another stunning example of incompetence

How many more examples of presidential incompetence do we need to witness?

Here’s the latest one to emerge from the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany: Donald J. Trump announced a joint cyber-security agreement with none other than Vladimir Putin.

That’s it: The president of the United States and the president of Russia agreed in principle to work on ways to prevent governments from hacking into others’ systems.

Oh, but wait! Twelve hours later, Trump tweeted (of course!) a change of heart; we won’t enter into that agreement with Russia after all.

Imagine that. The president backed out totally from an agreement he had his White House communications staff announce to the world.

Intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia hacked our electoral process in 2016. Then the Russian president puts this idea out in his meeting with the U.S. president — who then buys into it.

All the while, Trump keeps dissing our spooks’ expertise on this matter and then sidles up to the government believed to have sought to influence the outcome of our presidential election.

How does a White House staff at any level cope with this kind of capriciousness? How do Cabinet officers know whether to zig or zag as they try to keep the president in their sights?

Is there any wonder at all — having watched this administration stumble, bumble and fumble its way — why the president is having trouble filling so many vacancies?

Cyber-security honcho is strangely silent


There was a time — about a half-dozen years ago — when the then-speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, R-Ohio, called on my congressman, Clarendon Republican Mac Thornberry, to head up a cyber-security task force in Congress.

If memory serves, Boehner tasked Thornberry with finding ways to improve our cyber network protection against the kind of things that have been happening of late: hackers seeking to disrupt the U.S. electoral process. Those pesky Russians have been fingered as the major culprits in this cyber issue; President Obama has ordered a full review of what we’ve learned; Donald J. Trump has dismissed the CIA analysis as “ridiculous.”

So, where is the one-time GOP cyber-security expert on all of this? He should be a major participant in the public discussion. I haven’t seen or heard a thing from the veteran GOP lawmaker since the Russian hacking story hit the fan.

I checked Thornberry’s website to look for a statement from the congressman about what he thinks regarding this matter. I didn’t find anything. I looked at the link titled “Press Releases” and came up empty; I went through the “Issues” link, nothing there, either. I scanned the list of Thornberry’s essays on this and that and couldn’t find a commentary about recent events relating to cyber security.

Here’s the link to his website. Take a look.


Thornberry is a busy man, now that he’s chairing the House Armed Services Committee. He’s not superhuman.

However, Speaker Boehner gave Thornberry a big responsibility to craft a cyber-security policy that — one could surmise — was supposed to protect our secrets against foreign agents’ snooping eyes.

I’m wondering about the status of whatever it was that my congressman delivered to the speaker and whether any of his recommendations will become part of the cyber-security solution.

Techno-terrorists elevate threat to U.S., world

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issues a stern warning.

International terrorists have become cyber-savvy and are posing a uniquely new threat to the world.

Are we on guard against these guys? And what in the world do we do to stop them?


“We’re very definitely in a new environment, because of ISIL’s (IS’s) effective use of social media, the Internet, which has the ability to reach into the homeland and possibly inspire others,” Johnson said in a TV interview this morning.

The Islamic State reportedly is recruiting heavily through the Internet. It’s also posing serious threats to cyber infrastructure.

It’s no longer just madmen with bombs strapped their chests who pose threats to human life. This global war has turned into a battle of wits.

This new threat brings to mind something that congressional leaders sought to bring to national attention. I keep waiting to hear from the Texas Panhandle’s congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry, on how we’re defending ourselves against cyber warriors.

House Speaker John Boehner tasked Thornberry some years ago to lead a congressional committee that would devise strategies to fight Internet hackers and other enemies who would seek to do serious damage to our cyber infrastructure.

When these discussions bring the news to the front pages and gobble up air times on our news networks, I always seem to miss hearing from Rep. Thornberry, who I understand to be an expert on these issues.

I trust he’s working behind the scenes. He’s also become chairman of the House Armed Services panel, which is a huge responsibility all by itself.

Still, our Homeland Security secretary no doubt can use all the help he can muster in protecting “the homeland” against cyber attacks.

Let’s hope this fight transcends the political differences that seem to divide the White House and Capitol Hill … even when it involves national security.