Hillicon Valley: Senate Intel releases election security report | GOP blocks votes on election security bills | Gabbard sues Google over alleged censorship | Barr meets state AGs on tech antitrust concerns

Hillicon Valley: Senate Intel releases election security report | GOP blocks votes on election security bills | Gabbard sues Google over alleged censorship | Barr meets state AGs on tech antitrust concerns
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SENATE INTEL RELEASES ELECTION SECURITY REPORT: The Senate Intelligence Committee has released its long-awaited bipartisan report on election security and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Among the key findings of the report, the committee writes that "the Russian government directed extensive activity, beginning in at least 2014 and carrying into at least 2017, against U.S. election infrastructure at the state and local level."

The report is heavily redacted in some areas and is 67 pages. The Senate panel, which has been investigating Russian interference for more than two years, released a summary version of its election security findings in May 2018.

The panel released its redacted report one day after former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE appeared on Capitol Hill to testify about his own 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE.

The congressional document, which is the product of a bipartisan investigation led by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role Trump withdraws Ratcliffe as Intelligence pick MORE (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers sound alarm on China's disinformation campaign in Hong Kong Facebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (D-Va.), recommended that officials give "renewed attention" to vulnerabilities in voting infrastructure, such as further securing voter registration databases.

The report also recommends that Congress should consider providing additional funding for states to secure elections once the $380 million appropriated by Congress to states for this purpose in 2018 is spent.

"In 2016, the U.S. was unprepared at all levels of government for a concerted attack from a determined foreign adversary on our election infrastructure," Burr said in a statement, noting that the Department of Homeland Security and state and local election officials have made strides in the past three years "to bridge gaps in information sharing and shore up vulnerabilities."

"There is still much work that remains to be done, however," Burr said. "It is my hope that the Senate Intelligence Committee's bipartisan report will provide the American people with valuable insight into the election security threats still facing our nation and the ways we can address them."

Warner echoed Burr, saying neither the federal government nor the states were "adequately prepared" when Russia attempted to infiltrate U.S. voting statements in 2016 but said they have taken steps since then to ensure election systems are better secured.

But, Warner added, "there's still much more we can and must do to protect our elections."

Read more here.

 

 

More on election security...

 

BLOCKED: Senate Republicans blocked two election security bills and a cybersecurity measure on Wednesday in the wake of former special counsel Robert Mueller warning about meddling attempts during his public testimony before congressional lawmakers.  

Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that would require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission about foreign offers of assistance, as well as a bill to let the Senate Sergeant at Arms offer voluntary cyber assistance for personal devices and accounts of senators and staff. 

But Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) blocked each of the bills. She didn't give reason for her objections or say if she was objecting on behalf of herself or the Senate GOP caucus. Hyde-Smith, in a tweet on Thursday, accused Democrats of trying to pass "partisan" bills that had previously been blocked on the Senate floor.

Under Senate rules, any one senator can ask for consent to pass a bill, but any one senator is able to object. 

The floor drama comes after Mueller warned about election interference during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, saying Russia was laying the groundwork to interfere in the 2020 election "as we sit here."

Read more here. 

 

TRY AGAIN, GET BLOCKED AGAIN: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast MORE (R-Ky.) blocked two election security measures on Thursday, arguing Democrats are trying to give themselves a "political benefit."

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (D-N.Y.) had tried to get consent Thursday to pass a House bill that requires the use of paper ballots and includes funding for the Election Assistance Commission. It passed the House 225-184 with one Republican voting for it.

But McConnell objected, saying Schumer was trying to pass "partisan legislation." 

"Clearly this request is not a serious effort to make a law. Clearly something so partisan that it only received one single solitary Republican vote in the House is not going to travel through the Senate by unanimous consent," McConnell said.

Read more here.

 

House Democrats are also raising pressure on election security...

 

HOUSE PANEL QUESTIONS TRUMP ON ELECTION SECURITY: House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonPelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats Trump officials unveil rule allowing indefinite migrant family detentions MORE (D-Miss.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzParkland father: Twitter did not suspend users who harassed me using name of daughter's killer Hillicon Valley: Senate Intel releases election security report | GOP blocks votes on election security bills | Gabbard sues Google over alleged censorship | Barr meets state AGs on tech antitrust concerns House committee leader questions Trump on efforts to secure elections MORE (D-Fla.) sent a letter to President Trump this week questioning his administration's efforts to secure elections.

The letter was sent Wednesday in light of comments made by former special counsel Robert Mueller while testifying in front of two House committees.

Thompson and Wasserman Schultz questioned Trump on his actions taken in regard to election security, in particular pointing out that he has not requested or received a briefing from federal officials about election security efforts. They also questioned why Trump has not designated a White House official to coordinate "interagency efforts" to secure elections against foreign interference.

"It is your responsibility, as Commander in Chief, to address the threat of cyber-attacks, influence operations, disinformation campaigns, and other activities that undermine the security and integrity of U.S. democratic institutions," Thompson and Wasserman Schultz wrote. "We implore you to treat this issue with seriousness and with the utmost sense of urgency and concern that it demands."

The two demanded Trump both receive a briefing from senior officials on election security efforts and appoint an individual to coordinate government efforts on this topic. 

Read more here.

  

GABBARD VS. GOOGLE: Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates MORE (D-Hawaii), a 2020 presidential contender, is suing Google over claims that the tech behemoth violated her right to "free speech."

In a federal complaint filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Gabbard alleged Google censored her presidential campaign when it suspended their advertising account for several hours last month. 

A Google spokeswoman pushed back on Gabbard's claims in a statement to The Hill, attributing the brief suspension to sudden "large spending changes" that set off Google's automated systems.

"We have automated systems that flag unusual activity on all advertiser accounts – including large spending changes – in order to prevent fraud and protect our customers," the spokeswoman said.

"In this case, our system triggered a suspension and the account was reinstated shortly thereafter."

Still, Gabbard's lawsuit marks the first time a presidential contender has sued a large technology company over such claims.

The Hawaii Democrat's principal campaign committee, Tulsi Now Inc., is accusing Google of violating her First Amendment rights along with a litany of violations under California law.

"With this lawsuit, Tulsi seeks to stop Google from further intermeddling in the 2020 United States Presidential Election," the complaint reads.

Why her lawsuit is standing out: Gabbard's lawsuit reflects a narrative typically espoused by Republicans, many of whom have spent years claiming that the top tech companies in the world routinely censor their perspectives. President Trump has long accused the companies of discriminating against himself and other Republicans, and last month held a "social media summit" dedicated explicitly to the issue.

Read more here.

 

 

BARR TALKS ANTITRUST WITH STATE AGS: A group of eight state attorneys general met with Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFeds charge five in international ID theft ring targeting military members, veterans The road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces Correctional officers subpoenaed in Epstein investigation: report MORE on Thursday to discuss antitrust concerns about tech giants.

"Our bipartisan coalition of eight state attorneys general was pleased with the opportunity to meet with U.S. Attorney General Barr to talk about the real concerns consumers across the country have with big tech companies stifling competition on the internet," the group said in a joint statement. "It was a productive meeting and we're considering a range of possible anti-trust actions against such companies."

Among the states that participated were Texas, Louisiana, Nebraska and New York.

"Today's meeting was about coming together -- in a bipartisan manner -- to protect competition, protect our economy, and protect consumers. We have concerns about the size of these tech companies and will hold them accountable for anticompetitive practices that endanger privacy and consumer data," New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to comment. It is unclear which other states participated in the meeting.

The meeting comes just days after the DOJ announced a broad antitrust review of tech giants' market power.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Social media and the dangers of modern conveniences  

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Because there are no other pressing cyber issues to discuss

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Chris Hughes worked to create Facebook. Now, he is working to break it up. (The New York Times)

Equifax owes you a lot more, but here's how to get $125 from this week's settlement. (The Verge)

The biggest risk to your child's online privacy? Grandma. (Buzzfeed News)