The feds need to be held accountable for role in Russia scandal

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If a building in New York were hit by a Russian missile, no one would be blaming the building owner for the attack. If someone got shot on Fifth Avenue, no one would blame the victim for not wearing body armor.

Rightfully, if someone is walking at night in a high crime area and gets mugged, the individual exposes themselves to criticism for bad judgement. But still, it’s the mugger the police are chasing.

{mosads}So why is it that recently Facebook, Twitter, and Google were made to feel as though they were the criminals during the two days of marathon hearings the top lawyers for those companies endured?  


Many will agree that Facebook, Twitter and Google do plenty that deserves criticism and oversight, and there is plenty to applaud about Missouri’s Josh Hawley opening an antitrust suit against Google. Google is a direct competitor to cable companies, yet is allowed to redline where it sells services, is not regulated on its data collection, and often time skirts privacy rules.

Facebook is virtually unregulated in many areas of consumer privacy and their user policies are uneven and often unfair. Twitter’s censorship and user policies are similarly uneven and at times appear to be politically unbalanced.

But in the case of investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election cycle and sow distrust and discord among our U.S. institutions, even in democracy itself, blame should not be falling on private industry. Congress should be holding itself and the federal government to account.

For years, the individuals in the private sector and the cybersecurity experts in the public sector have been clamoring for increased vigilance and security of what is now our most critical infrastructure: the vast, global Internet.

Each year, the federal government spends tens of billions–almost certainly more if you count the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency and the broader intelligence community – on Internet security, online intelligence monitoring, and other cyber intelligence strategies.

We have separate entities that coordinate on the issue of cybersecurity, such as the Center for Internet Security and. the National Institute of Standards and Technology inside the U.S. Commerce Department, These helps set U.S. cybersecurity policy via the “NIST Cybersecurity Framework,” and the the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity Division

Despite all of the resources at our disposal in both the public and private sector — and the knowledge that the United States intelligence community, as well as President Obama, knew that Russians were executing a strategy of meddling in foreign elections long years beforethe presidential election in November 2016 — little to nothing was done to block or stop the Russian attacks on secure networks and misinformation campaign.

Yet, we reached the moment a few weeks ago where U.S. Senators were putting the onus on private businesses to not only defend and monitor their networks and businesses, but to essentially do the work of the federal government and intelligence community.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Los Angeles Times noted, proclaimed Google, Twitter and Facebook that they needed to be more aggressive at stopping secret foreign use of their technology, “You bear this responsibility. You created these platforms and now they are being misused,” she said. “You have to be the ones to do something about it or we will.”

Here’s the newsflash for the Senator: The federal government has given plenty of lip service over the past decade, and has budgeted billions and billions of taxpayer dollars toward cybersecurity and national intelligence efforts on line to blunt bad actors like Russia, China, and Iran from undertaking hacking and cyber attacks on U.S. companies and infrastructure.

Yet, none of those federal entities inside the CIA, FBI, and NSA are being called on the carpet for the Russia mess, but they should be. Those in charge of cybersecurity in the intelligence community should be brought on to the Hill and asked what they did with the resources given to them. Because they are truly at fault in this situation.

The issue here isn’t a question of resources. The feds have more than enough power and the legal authority to keep our Internet environment safe and secure. It has the federal agencies to do so, and even citizens have resources. There is the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Elections Commission, each of which are stakeholders in cyber policy.

The Russians undertook perhaps the most pervasive and successful disinformation and misinformation campaigns they have ever undertaken, in part, because they understood that our First Amendment and open society could be used against us.

They probably also suspected that the intelligence community wouldn’t be paying particular attention to the comparatively small ad buys and placements online (nor, to be fair, would the companies that own the social and communications platforms). 

Those failings say more about our government’s lack of preparedness and inability to coordinate than it does about Twitter, Facebook, and Google’s willingness to look past patriotism and security in pursuit of profits.

But this entire situation also highlights a deep irony that many progressives, who are losing their minds over Russia, have missed: that the State, the Bureaucratic State that they put so much hope in and which was being led by Obama, failed them. Their Golden Calf with virtually unlimited resources and power was found to be impotent. But God forbid that should ever stop them from seeking more government solutions.

If President Trump wants to really get to the bottom of all of this Russian meddling, he needs to order the full de-classification across the government of what the Obama administration knew about Russian efforts, when they knew about it, and what they did or didn’t do about it.

We don’t need Congress or a federal agency to come up with a new set of regulations or a new department to solve this problem. We need the federal government to be held accountable for its role in this Russia scandal, and to admit that it was if not complicit, then guilty of massive incompetence and dereliction of duty.

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter @nedryun.

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