Hillicon Valley: Kushner accused of using WhatsApp, personal email for official work | White House rejects request for Trump-Putin communications | Facebook left 'hundreds of millions' of passwords unsecured | Tech pressured to root out extremism

Hillicon Valley: Kushner accused of using WhatsApp, personal email for official work | White House rejects request for Trump-Putin communications | Facebook left 'hundreds of millions' of passwords unsecured | Tech pressured to root out extremism

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 the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).

 

ENKRYPTED KUSHNER: The House Oversight and Reform Committee has obtained information that senior White House adviser and President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE's son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Judiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates House Judiciary to vote to authorize subpoenas for Trump officials, immigration documents MORE used WhatsApp and his personal email to conduct official government business.

Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsAppeals court asks DOJ to weigh in on Trump congressional subpoena fight Four heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities Border Patrol chief was member of secret Facebook group for agents: report MORE (D-Md.) wrote in a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Thursday that the panel gained confirmation from Kushner's attorney Abbe Lowell in December of last year that Kushner "continues to use" the encrypted message service for government business.

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The panel is inquiring whether Kushner, his wife Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpIvanka Trump's women's initiative unveils million in new grants The Hill's Morning Report - House Democrats clash over next steps at border American women can have it all MORE, and other members of the Trump administration may have violated the Presidential Records Act.

Cummings also blasted the White House for failing to provide his committee with documents that he says he has repeatedly requested.

"The White House's failure to provide documents and information is obstructing the Committee's investigation into allegations of violations of federal records laws by White House officials," Cummings wrote.

"In fact, as you know, the White House has not produced a single piece of paper to the Committee in the 116th Congress--in this or any other investigation," he continued.

The chairman also claims Lowell confirmed that Ivanka Trump received official work emails on her personal email account that she has failed to forward back to her official email account, something he notes is required by law.

Read more here.

 

PUTIN IT OFF: The White House is rejecting a sweeping request from House Democrats for documents and interviews related to President Trump's communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a letter obtained by The Hill, White House counsel Pat Cipollone asserts that the president's diplomatic communications are confidential and protected by executive privilege and describes the requests as beyond Congress's legitimate realm of inquiry.

Cipollone also argues that such a disclosure could have a detrimental impact on the ability of Trump or future presidents to conduct foreign relations.

"The President must be free to engage in discussions with foreign leaders without fear that those communications will be disclosed and used as fodder for partisan political purposes.  And foreign leaders must be assured of this as well," Cipollone writes in the letter sent Thursday to House committee chairmen Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify Mueller to give extended testimony after appearance postponed Mueller testimony likely to be delayed for one week MORE (D-Calif.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries Justice Democrats issues 3 new endorsements for progressive candidates MORE (D-N.Y.).

"This is why, from the Nation's beginning, Presidents from all political parties have determined that the law does not require the Executive Branch to provide Congress with documents relating to confidential diplomatic communications between the President and foreign leaders," he adds.

Schiff, Cummings and Engel -- who chair the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs committees, respectively – sent letters to the White House and State Department in early March seeking a slew of documents and transcribed interviews with executive branch staff related to a burgeoning investigation into Trump's communications with Putin.

The request is one of several that the White House is contending with as House Democrats move forward with a series of probes into Trump, his administration and business dealings.

Read more here.

 

CHANGE! YOUR! PASSWORD!!: Facebook announced on Thursday that "hundreds of millions" of users' passwords had been stored in unprotected plain text accessible by the company's employees.

In a blog post titled "Keeping Passwords Secure," the social media giant said it had found no reason to believe the trove of passwords had been abused by its workers or accessed by anyone outside the company.

"There is nothing more important to us than protecting people's information, and we will continue making improvements as part of our ongoing security efforts at Facebook," Pedro Canahuati, the company's vice president for engineering security and privacy, wrote in the post.

Facebook did not specify exactly how many users were affected by the password exposure, but said the company expects to notify "hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, tens of millions of other Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users." Facebook Lite is a service for users who lack access to strong internet connections.

Brian Krebs, a well-regarded cybersecurity journalist who first reported the news, reported Thursday that an internal investigation has found that anywhere between 200 million and 600 million users had their passwords exposed in a database that was accessible by more than 20,000 Facebook employees.

According to Krebs, Facebook believes that some of the passwords had been stored in plain text as early as 2012.

Read more here.

 

FIGHTING WHITE SUPREMACY ONLINE: Lawmakers are putting pressure on social media companies to take aggressive action against white supremacists in the wake of the New Zealand massacre.

Critics note that tech companies were successful in largely rooting out content promoting ISIS, but question why those same efforts have not targeted other extremists online.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: FTC reportedly settles with Facebook for B fine | Trump calls to regulate Facebook's crypto project | Court rules Pentagon can award B 'war cloud' contract | Study shows automation will hit rural areas hardest Border Patrol chief was member of secret Facebook group for agents: report Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy MORE (D-Miss.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, on Tuesday asked Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Microsoft to brief his panel on their efforts to remove violent terrorist content – including from "far-right, domestic terrorists" like the New Zealand shooter.

"Your companies tout your record in removing terrorism-related content," Thompson wrote, noting efforts to combat ISIS and al-Qaeda-related postings. "However, the public has largely been kept in the dark regarding metrics associated with other violent extremists, including far-right violent extremists."

The issue is gaining new attention after the shootings at two New Zealand mosques that killed 50.

The suspected shooter posted a white supremacist manifesto on Twitter and other social media outlets, laying out his bigoted views on Muslims and immigrants, according to New Zealand police. The shooter also uploaded a live video to Facebook of the attack, filming himself shooting dozens of worshippers at one of the mosques he targeted.

Lawmakers say the issue extends beyond the video itself and raises larger questions about how to deal with the extremist views the shooter and his supporters promoted online.

"Social media platforms – like Facebook and YouTube – can be grossly misused, allowing radicalized extremists in all forms take advantage of their openness, their scale, and their reach," Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand On The Money: Fed chief warns of 'unthinkable' harm if debt ceiling breached | Powell basks in bipartisan praise amid Trump attacks | Federal deficit jumps to 7 billion Fed chief basks in bipartisan praise as lawmakers dismiss Trump attacks MORE (D-Va.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement to The Hill.

Read more here.

 

SILENT AS A STONE: Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneCounterprotesters outnumber far-right extremists at DC rally Judge orders Roger Stone to file rebuttal to allegation he violated gag order Federal prosecutors allege Roger Stone violated gag order with Instagram posts MORE is declining to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee's request for documents in its investigation into President Trump's administration, business and campaign, citing his Fifth Amendment rights.

In a letter sent to the committee on Monday and obtained by The Hill, Stone's attorney wrote that his client won't produce the requested documents "on the advice of counsel."

The committee had requested that Stone provide any documents tied to hush money payments made by then-Trump attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenFeds unlikely to charge Trump Organization execs in campaign finance case: report Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy Trump associate Felix Sater grilled by House Intel MORE to women alleging affairs with Trump ahead of the 2016 election.

They also requested documents related to any offers from foreign or domestic governments to the president or his businesses, contacts with WikiLeaks and any communications involving the Russian government and Trump.

The House Judiciary Committee, Stone and his attorney, Grant Smith, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the letter, Smith cited Stone's indictment on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller as reason to not comply with the request.

"As a current criminal defendant, with the presumption of innocence guaranteed to him, it is not in Mr. Stone's best interest to participate in any additional proceedings, outside those in federal court, until the charges are resolved," Smith wrote.

"Neither will Mr. Stone confirm for your Committee the existence of, or produce any documents requested, for the purpose of being used against him in anyway or to further the political agenda of people who want nothing more than to avenge the loss of their chosen candidate for president in 2016 by deposing the legally elected office holder."

Read more here.

 

ASSANGE ALSO WON'T COOPERATE: The founder of WikiLeaks has reportedly declined to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee's sweeping documents request, which is part of a broad investigation into President Trump's administration, campaign and businesses.

Politico first reported Thursday that Julian Assange would not be cooperating with the congressional probe, citing a comment from his lawyer Barry Pollack.

"The First Amendment dictates that any inquiry by Congress should not begin by issuing requests to journalists for documents pertaining to its news gathering," Pollack told Politico.

Assange has come under scrutiny for publishing hacked emails from the campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton responds to Trump tweets telling Dem lawmakers to 'go back' to their countries The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president MORE and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the presidential election, and he has dismissed criticism of his actions by stating that he acted just as other journalists have when they decide to make confidential documents public.

Despite this defense, a U.S. intelligence community assessment concluded that the whistleblower organization was actively involved in obtaining as well as publishing such emails, which caused a massive embarrassment to the Democratic Party during the heated presidential race. 

Russian operatives penetrated DNC servers after sending dozens of phishing emails to staff, in which they received a fake Google notification asking them to change their password. One person did, leading these hackers to gain access to internal communications that were eventually turned over to WikiLeaks.

Assange is one of the 81 individuals and entities who were hit with the House Judiciary Committee's document requests, and he is one of several who have publicly stated they will not cooperate with the panel.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Rubio's pragmatic thinking on China.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Yeah, the stinking internet.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

A new age of warfare: How internet mercenaries do battle for authoritarian governments. (The New York Times)

I rode an e-scooter as far from civilization as its batteries could take me. (Gizmodo)

Instagram is the internet's new home for hate. (The Atlantic)

After New Zealand shooting, the founder of 8chan expresses regrets. (The Wall Street Journal)