One of the most profoundly disturbing moments during testimony given by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the House Judiciary Committee was his response to Rep. Brad Schneider:
“When the attorney general appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) asked him about the department’s efforts to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference in the future. Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that election security policies needed to be reviewed, but didn’t have any updates to offer on Tuesday.
“I have not followed through to see where we are on that and I will personally take action to do so,” Sessions said. “There are a lot of things that have been happening, and we’ve been working on a lot of great agenda items, but this one is important, and I acknowledge that, and I should be able to give you better information today than I am.” [HuffPo]
Let’s review. The Russians sought to break into at least 21 state election systems, and may have attempted to hack into as many as 39. The Russians launched a social media influence campaign replete with bots, and posts, and promotions. The Russians attacked the computer systems of the Democratic Party. The Republican response to these three elements has been, and continues to be, completely unsatisfactory.
The White House reply has ranged from “it didn’t happen because Putin said it didn’t,” to a bizarre conspiracy theory in which it’s the Democrats who conspired with the Russians (to lose the election?), to “it may have happened but who can tell who did it.” At the risk of redundancy, it’s not like there haven’t been security assessments published since last January refuting this nonsense. However, too often we lose track of an essential piece of this state of denial: The administration appears to believe that this activity wasn’t serious because no one can prove that election results were changed in any way. The is a goal post with serious policy ramifications.
This is almost tantamount to arguing that since the bear didn’t eat so much food during his raid on the pantry as to cause family members to starve, then the raid wasn’t actually serious.
It offers an excuse for Attorney General Sessions’ inactivity. After all if nothing serious happened, then why should the Department of Justice assign assets toward investigating the problem? The second paragraph quoted above is perhaps the most disturbing. If we take the Attorney General at his word that the Russian interference is “serious” then why has he nothing to report to the House Judiciary Committee?
Because other items were more important? “We’ve been working on a lot of great agenda items.” And what might these be? A Muslim immigration ban? A ban on recruiting transgender individuals in the US military? I wish the Representative, or other Representatives, had ask what “other great agenda items?” And, why are these are more important than attempts to interfere in US elections?
Back to the bear in the pantry — The bear’s pantry raid wasn’t all that important because we’ve been busy replacing the carpeting in the living room. There was an addendum to Attorney General Sessions’ comments:
“He added that states needed to review their election vulnerabilities, and that the FBI and intelligence community could play a key role in stopping hacking. He said he did not dispute the conclusion of the intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. There’s no evidence that any votes were changed by hackers.
Federal and state officials have faced significant obstacles in trying to coordinate their response to election hacking. The Department of Homeland Security waited until this September to notify 21 states that Russian hackers had targeted them last year. Election officials in two of those states ― California and Wisconsin ― then turned around and accused the department of giving them bad information.”
There he goes again — the actual election returns weren’t rendered bogus, then there’s nothing to see here. Or, no one starved so the pantry raid wasn’t important — but wait, the FBI and intelligence community COULD “play a key role in stopping hacking.” Could?
The FBI and intelligence community COULD assist states — but they didn’t notify 21 states until THIS September, and then two of the states got inaccurate information. Nothing says “this isn’t a priority” quite like delaying important warnings for months and then not checking to see if the warning contents were accurate.
After the bear ate his fill from the family pantry …”we’d like to inform you that you had a bear in your pantry last Summer, but it could have been raccoons, and although the door frame was damaged, they could have gotten in through that back door, or maybe it was the window.”
“Most states’ elections officials still don’t have the security clearances necessary to have a thorough discussion with federal officials about what’s known about Russian, or others’, efforts to hack into their systems.
Seven states still use all-electronic voting systems whose results cannot be verified because there is no paper trail.
And hundreds of US counties rely on outside contractors to maintain their registration records and update the software on voting machines. Some of those contractors are small operations with few employees and minimal computer security skills.”
In other words — the back door frame still hasn’t been repaired, there’s still a batch of open cartons of food in the pantry, and back fence can be easily scaled by all but the most geriatric ursine intruder.
The bear will be back. And if he had fun in the pantry, imagine how much fulfilling fun he’ll have in the kitchen?