Friday, January 6, 2017

Will ignorance and insecurity Trump intelligence and cybersecurity?

Only if we, the nation, let Trump get away with trashing our intelligence services. The US Senate Armed Services Committee and the senior officials in the intelligence community are taking strong stands against Trump on this matter. There are multiple related threads on this one.

Trump’s “insanely dangerous feud” with intelligence agencies

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) describes Trump’s war on America’s intelligence agencies, Trump intensifies ‘insanely dangerous’ feud with intel agencies.

[In spite of what Trump tweets,] To the extent that reality matters, the briefing wasn’t delayed. NBC News’ report added that a senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge of the situation said last night that “the heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI and the director of national intelligence were always scheduled to meet with Trump on Friday.”

But arguably more important than Trump’s lazy dishonesty is his willingness to intensify his ongoing feud with U.S. intelligence agencies. In one juvenile tweet, the president-elect managed to attack the integrity of the agencies, their work, their professionalism, and their findings. He also has clearly made up his mind about the underlying controversy, choosing to believe Russia over American officials.

Sure, other presidents (and presidents-elect) have clashed with intelligence officials in recent history, but Trump is the first to openly taunt and mock these agencies in public.

Rachel asked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) about Trump’s bizarre antics, and he replied, “[Y]ou take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you. So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

What happens next is unclear. Will intelligence professionals start resigning, rather than work for an amateur president who belittles their work? Will intelligence agencies have enough trust in Trump to share sensitive information, uncertain whether he’ll share that information with others?

If Trump, once he’s president, tells the American public to believe him when it comes to a national security threat or the need for a war, will anyone other than his most blindly loyal followers be able to take his claims seriously?

Trump has created a crisis for no reason. The consequences for all of us may be severe.

I will get back to the reason at the end of this post.

Woolsey resigns

If you want to measure the lack of confidence in some organization, watch who walks away.

The Washington Post reports an important, and possibly diagnostic resignation from the Trump’s transition team by former CIA director R. James Woolsey. And that comes at the same time the US Senate committee chaired by AZ Sen. John McCain is holding a hearing on Russian hacking, Top U.S. intelligence official: Russia meddled in election by hacking, spreading of propaganda. More on that hearing below.

Former CIA director R. James Woolsey Jr., a veteran of four presidential administrations, resigned Thursday from Trump’s transition team because of growing tensions over Trump’s vision for intelligence agencies.

Woolsey’s resignation as a Trump senior adviser comes amid frustrations over the incoming administration’s national security plans and Trump’s public comments undermining the intelligence community.

“Effective immediately, Ambassador Woolsey is no longer a Senior Advisor to President-Elect Trump or the Transition,” Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for Woolsey, said in a statement. “He wishes the President-Elect and his Administration great success in their time in office.”

People close to Woolsey said that he had been excluded in recent weeks from discussions on intelligence matters with Trump and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the incoming White House national security adviser. They said Woolsey had grown increasingly uncomfortable lending his name and credibility to the transition team without being consulted. Woolsey was taken aback by this week’s reports that Trump is considering revamping the country’s intelligence framework, said these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment candidly.

Intelligence leaders counter Trump at Senate hearing

Both the Washington Post, Top U.S. intelligence official: Russia meddled in election by hacking, spreading of propaganda, and the New York Times, Countering Trump, Bipartisan Voices Strongly Affirm Findings on Russian Hacking, reported on the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Following snippets are from the Times.

A united front of top intelligence officials and senators from both parties on Thursday forcefully reaffirmed the conclusion that the Russian government used hacking and leaks to try to influence the presidential election, directly rebuffing President-elect Donald J. Trump’s repeated questioning of Russia’s role.

They suggested that the doubts Mr. Trump has expressed on Twitter about the agencies’ competence and impartiality were undermining their morale.

“There’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement,” James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Russian hacks. He added that “our assessment now is even more resolute” that the Russians carried out the attack on the election.

The Senate hearing was the prelude to an extraordinary meeting scheduled for Friday, when Mr. Clapper and other intelligence chiefs will repeat for Mr. Trump the same detailed, highly classified briefing on the Russian attack that President Obama received on Thursday. *In effect, they will be telling the president-elect that the spy agencies believe he won with an assist from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The Post describes the forceful response by Clapper and a warning to President-elect Trump by US Senator Lindsey Graham.

In the most dramatic portion of the hearing, Graham asked Clapper whether he was ready to be challenged by Trump, and Clapper said he was. Graham also advised Trump, “Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people, you can be skeptical, but understand they’re the best among us and they’re trying to protect us.”

Trump’s alliance with WikiLeaks and the Russians is flawed

Trump is buying into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s claim that the Russians were not the source of his leaked documents. The Washington Post Fact Checker examined Julian Assange’s claim that there was no Russian involvement in WikiLeaks emails

While Assange — and subsequently, Trump — appear to claim that Russia is 1,000 percent certain not to be the source of the documents published on WikiLeaks, the facts are not nearly as certain. We dug into it.

Assange assured the American public that he is 1,000 percent confident that the Russian government, or anybody associated with Russia, was not the source of hacked DNC emails published on WikiLeaks. But the situation is much less certain than he makes it seem.

Guccifer 2.0, a hacking entity, has claimed credit for providing the hacked DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Independent cybersecurity experts have found Guccifer 2.0’s links to Russian hackers, noting that Guccifer 2.0’s malware and hacking activity are similar to known Russian hackers. Researchers have assessed that Guccifer 2.0 likely is connected to Russians. But Guccifer 2.0 has denied ties to the Russian government.

Assange assured the public that he is 1,000 percent sure that there was no Russian involvement, without providing any evidence in the interview or in response to our inquiry. The facts we know contradict Assange’s assurance, and the situation is much too complex for him to make such a sweeping statement.

Further, he does not disclose any of the independent assessments that have been made about Guccifer 2.0, who has claimed credit for providing WikiLeaks with DNC emails. We award Assange Three Pinocchios for his distortion of the facts. Obviously, we will also keep an eye on this and update as further information becomes available.

What Donald Trump does not know can hurt us

Catherine Rampell (Washington Post, reprinted in the Daily Star), thinks Trump will make courier pigeons great again. Will Trump’s White House have computers? Quite possibly not. Trump, you see, knows little to nothing about information technology, his tweets not withstanding. So I discount his remarks about the innocence of the Russians in the matter of hacking United States’ communications.

“a crisis for no reason”?

So why, you might well ask, has Trump triggered all this with his “insanely dangerous” fight he has picked with America’s intelligence agencies. Why, you may ask, has Trump sided with Russia and WikiLeaks’ Assange against the country that Trump supposedly will be sworn to protect and defend. My answer lies in Trump’s notorious insecurity. If Trump agrees with the assessments of our intelligence agencies, in effect he will be admitting that he won the presidency with the aid of a foreign government’s intervention in our election. That admission is a threat to the legitimacy of Trump’s administration - and to Trump’s view of himself. It is a dark cloud hanging over Trump’s head. To avoid all that Trump has to cast doubt on our intelligence services. He has to cast doubt on the evidence those services present. And he is doing so at great cost to the nation.

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