Overnight Cybersecurity

Hillicon Valley: Dems seek to expand DHS probe after whistleblower complaint | DHS rejects House subpoena for Wolf to testify | Facebook rolls out new features for college students

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

DEMS DIG IN: House Democrats have notified the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that they are expanding an investigation into the agency's intelligence activities, while requesting nearly a dozen more interviews as they seek to examine allegations of improper conduct.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Friday informed Joseph Maher, the top official carrying out the duties of DHS's under secretary for intelligence and analysis (I&A), of the panel's move to expand the probe to not only encompass its intelligence activities in Portland, Ore., but also claims of political interference and the politicization of intelligence raised in a new whistleblower complaint.

The complaint came from Brian Murphy, a career public servant and the former acting under secretary of I&A, who alleges that there was a pattern of misconduct among top political appointees who pushed him to alter vetted intelligence assessments to support or match President Trump's public remarks.

In particular, the complaint alleges that acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, under the direction of White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien, instructed Murphy earlier this year to stop producing intelligence reports centered on Russian interference efforts and instead focus on the threats posed by China and Iran.

Murphy says he declined multiple orders to alter or modify intelligence products to help support the administration's agenda, which he claims led to a retaliatory demotion.

"Recent developments have obligated the Committee to expand the scope of its ongoing investigation," Schiff wrote in the letter.

Read more here.

 

WORLDWIDE THREATS HEARING HICCUP: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday said it was rejecting Democrats' subpoena for acting agency Secretary Chad Wolf to appear before the panel, arguing it's unprecedented for a nominee to testify during the confirmation process on unrelated matters.

In a letter sent to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) on Friday - which comes in response to Thompson's letter requesting Wolf's presence at a hearing titled "Worldwide Threats to the Homeland" slated to take place on Sept. 17 - Assistant DHS Secretary Beth Spivey slammed the assertion that Wolf's appearance is necessary, noting the agency offered to allow senior official Ken Cuccinelli to appear before the committee to testify on threats instead.

"I had written to you on September 8, 2020 that it would be contrary to standard practice for  the Acting Secretary, as the President's selection (and announced at the time as the President's future  nominee) to be Secretary of Homeland Security, to testify before the Committee on Homeland  Security on a subject matter unrelated to his nomination while that nomination was pending," Spivey wrote, arguing the "arguments in your [Thompson's] letter are without merit."

Read more here. 

 

BRIDGING THE DIVIDE: Ensuring all U.S. households have high-speed internet will help provide similar education opportunities to students at different income levels, particularly during the pandemic, Democrats say.

"Education justice involves giving everybody the same access to information," Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) said at The Hill's Future of Education event on Thursday.

The digital divide exacerbated by the pandemic "is about opportunity" and needs to be narrowed, Shalala told The Hill's Steve Clemons.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said in May that 93.7 percent of Americans have broadband access, though critics have argued the methodology the agency uses underestimates that access. NCTA - The Internet & Television Association has said 86 percent of Americans have access to four or more broadband providers.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (D), who also spoke at Thursday's event sponsored by Nokia and the Walton Family Foundation, said the U.S. needs a federal policy that aims to bring broadband access into every home.

"We need a national policy of 100 percent of our households online," she said. "No individual, household, or community is going to have a fair shot at success in the 21st century without it."

Read more here. 

 

FACEBOOK GOES BACK TO THE START: Facebook is recasting part of its platform for college students, creating a separate space with additional features for students to connect and interact with each other.

The move is aimed at helping bolster college communities amid the coronavirus pandemic, as many students are required to keep their physical distance from each other, the company said in a press release.

Facebook acknowledged the move is a nod to its early days, when it started as an online social network for college campuses.

"Facebook was a college-only network, and now we're returning to our roots with Facebook Campus to help students make and maintain these relationships, even if they're away from their college," the release said.

To use the college-only feature, students must use a valid university email address. The college section will be accessible to eligible users under the Facebook app's "More" tab.

Read more here. 

 

ZOOM BOMBING: A virtual federal court hearing about a challenge to Georgia's voting machines was interrupted Friday due to someone in the Zoom call posting offensive videos and symbols, including a swastika, images from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and pornography.

The hearing had around 100 people signed in as participants and observers for a long-running battle over Georgia voting machines' efficacy, U.S. News reported.

Before officials were able to shut down the meeting, a user under the name "Osama" posted videos and still images, some accompanied by music, by sharing their screen with the rest of the conference call.

The hearing resumed about an hour later with a virtual waiting room established so court staff moderators could vet everyone before the meeting commenced.

The hearing began Thursday and convened over a lawsuit filed by election integrity activists and voters who voiced concerns Georgia's voting machines are unaccountable and prone to security vulnerabilities.

Read more here. 

 

Lighter click: Support local newspapers

An op-ed to chew on: Who calls an election? Why we need patience and nonpartisanship this time

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Peter Thiel Met With The Racist Fringe As He Went All In On Trump (BuzzFeed News / Rosie Gray and Ryan Mac)

Who would Joe Biden pick for the FCC? (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum)

The woman taking over TikTok at the toughest time (New York Times / Mike Isaac and Taylor Lorenz)

QAnon Website Shuts Down After N.J. Man Identified as Operator (Bloomberg / William Turton)

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