Hillicon Valley: GOP hits back over election security bills | Ratcliffe out for intel chief | Social media companies consider policies targeting 'deepfakes' | Capital One, GitHub sued over breach

Hillicon Valley: GOP hits back over election security bills | Ratcliffe out for intel chief | Social media companies consider policies targeting 'deepfakes' | Capital One, GitHub sued over breach
© Greg Nash

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PUNCHING BACK: Republicans are pushing back on Democrats after sustaining more than a week of attacks over election security bills that have stalled in the Senate.

GOP senators this week countered accusations from across the aisle that they are thwarting all efforts to secure the 2020 elections, arguing instead that Senate Democrats are abandoning the legislative process, treading on states' rights and misleading voters about what their legislation would do.

"When they talk about federalizing elections, or having to have a central D.C. location to be able to give certification to every vendor or Voter ID laws or federal funding for elections, those are not election security items, that's a completely different thing," Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHillicon Valley: GOP hits back over election security bills | Ratcliffe out for intel chief | Social media companies consider policies targeting 'deepfakes' | Capital One, GitHub sued over breach The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden camp feels boost after Detroit debate GOP punches back in election security fight MORE (R-Okla.), one of the main Republicans pushing for election security legislation, told The Hill this week.

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Other Republicans pointed to a recent all-member Senate briefing, given by senior administration officials on election security efforts, as their reasoning for not wanting to pass election bills.

"When we were in the briefing we asked, 'Do you need further authority?' And the people in charge of election security don't need any further authority, they don't need a law," Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation FBI Agents Association calls on Congress to make 'domestic terrorism' a federal crime Senators renew request for domestic threats documents from FBI, DOJ after shootings MORE (R-Wis.) told The Hill.

An escalating feud: The comments from GOP senators came as Republicans are attempting to reframe the election security debate by explaining their rationale for consistently blocking related bills, despite warnings from former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE that Russia is actively planning on a repeat performance of its 2016 election interference.

Breaking the deadlock: One bill that is positioned to garner bipartisan support and potentially break the deadlock is the Secure Elections Act, backed by Lankford and Klobuchar in the previous Congress. The measure failed to make it through the Rules Committee, with Klobuchar blaming the White House and Lankford saying too many people "jumped in" with suggestions.

The two senators are looking to reintroduce the bill this Congress, and according to Lankford are only working out "verbs, nouns, and adjectives" before putting it out.

"You're not going to find a Republican opposed to election security," Lankford said. "Contrary to popular belief, we don't want elections interfered with either."

More on the election security fight here.

 

JUST KIDDING: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE said Friday that he will not nominate Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeNew intel chief inherits host of challenges Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post The Hill's Morning Report — Will Congress do anything on gun control? MORE (R-Texas) to be director of national intelligence, just days after announcing plans to tap the GOP congressman to replace Daniel Coats.

Trump blamed the media for treating Ratcliffe "very unfairly" in a string of tweets sent Friday afternoon, saying Ratcliffe had decided to stay in Congress and withdraw his name from consideration. Trump said he plans to announce an official nominee "shortly."

"Our great Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe is being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media. Rather than going through months of slander and libel, I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people," Trump tweeted Friday afternoon.

"John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our Country. I will be announcing my nomination for DNI shortly."

Scrutiny on Ratcliffe: Trump's abrupt announcement came after days of scrutiny on Ratcliffe's background and past statements critical of former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Several Republican senators had declined to weigh in on his nomination, as he withstood a barrage of criticism from Democrats for being too political for the role.  

Trump had not officially nominated Ratcliffe. 

Several news reports have described Ratcliffe as overstating parts of his biography relating to his work on terrorism cases as a federal prosecutor in Texas since Trump announced his intention to nominate him on Sunday.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces MORE (Va.), the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, said Thursday it would be "clearly disqualifying" if it were true that Ratcliffe padded his resume.

What Ratcliffe is saying: Ratcliffe said in a statement Friday that he asked Trump to nominate someone else for the position.

"While I am and will remain very grateful to the President for his intention to nominate me as Director of National Intelligence, I am withdrawing from consideration," Ratcliffe said.

"I was humbled and honored that the President put his trust in me to lead our nation's intelligence operations and remain convinced that when confirmed, I would have done so with the objectivity, fairness and integrity that our intelligence agencies need and deserve," he continued. "However, I do not wish for a national security and intelligence debate surrounding my confirmation, however untrue, to become a purely political and partisan issue."

Trump did not answer questions about Ratcliffe's withdrawal on Friday afternoon during a White House event on trade. White House officials were notified in recent days that his nomination likely would face an uphill climb in the Senate, according to an administration official. 

Read more on the Ratcliffe surprise here.

 

HURD OFF THE HILL: Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdRepublicans offer support for Steve King challenger House Democrats target 2020 GOP incumbents in new ad The 9 House Republicans who support background checks MORE (R-Texas), the only African American Republican in the House of Representatives, announced Thursday night that he will not seek reelection in 2020. 

"I have made the decision to not seek reelection for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security," Hurd said on Twitter.

Hurd said he left a job in the CIA to run for Congress in 2014 to help give the lower chamber leadership in areas related to intelligence and national security. 

"While Congress has a role in these issues, so does the private sector and civil society," he said. "After reflecting on how best to help our country address these challenges, I'm leaving the House of Representatives to help our country in a different way."

Hurd added that he would continue to remain in politics to "help make sure the Republican Party looks like America."

Hurd represents a congressional district that stretches along the U.S.-Mexico border between San Antonio and El Paso. Hurd narrowly held on to his seat in 2018, fending off a challenge from Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones. Following Hurd's retirement announcement, the 23rd Congressional District moved from "toss-up" to "leans Democratic," according to Crystal Ball House ratings. The Cook Political Report rates Hurd's district as "Republican toss up."

The tech/cyber connection: Hurd is the ranking member on the House Intelligence subcommittee on intelligence modernization and readiness, and has been a prominent voice on cybersecurity issues.

Read more on his exit here.

 

GETTING REAL ON DEEPFAKES: Facebook, Google and Twitter are all considering writing policies specifically about deepfake videos after lawmakers raised concerns over a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Pelosi hits Trump, Netanyahu for 'weakness' amid tensions over Omar and Tlaib In Hong Kong, the need for peaceful persistence MORE (D-Calif.).

The companies shared those plans to a top Democratic lawmaker in letters this month.

The trio of top social media companies told Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Schiff offers bill to make domestic terrorism a federal crime New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, they are all looking into whether it's necessary to tweak their policies to account for the rise of deepfakes, videos or images that have manipulated to make it appear as though people are doing or saying things that they never have.

The issue clamored into the spotlight earlier this year when Facebook declined to take down a user-posted video of Pelosi that was slowed down and edited to make it appear as though she was sick or drunk. The hundreds of comments on the video indicated viewers thought the video was real. Shortly after, President Trump shared a video that was spliced to make it seem like Pelosi was stumbling over her words.

The videos of Pelosi were not deepfakes, but they reignited a larger conversation about how the social media companies deal with manipulated footage, which is expected to play a growing role in the upcoming presidential election.

Schiff pressed the companies over the issue in letters on June 15. The responses from the companies are dated July 31.

Here's what each company is saying....

Twitter: Twitter's director of public policy, Carlos Monje, wrote that "We are carefully investigating how to handle manipulated media and agree that manipulated media can pose serious threats in certain circumstances."

"The solutions we develop will need to protect the rights of people to engage in parody, satire and political commentary," he added.

Google: "We are always looking into new potential threats related to personal or societal harm arising from new technologies, including this one, and may further update our policies in the future if we identify gaps that are not currently covered by our existing rules or systems," Karan Bhatia, Google's vice president of government affairs and public policy, wrote. He noted that Google-owned YouTube has been working to combat manipulated media since its "early days," pointing to the platform's "deceptive practices" policies as an effort to address the issue.

Facebook: And Facebook noted that its CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach Social media never intended to be in the news business — but just wait till AI takes over Facebook exploring deals with media outlets for news section: report MORE has publicly said the company may craft a new policy for deepfakes specifically.

"We have recently engaged with more than 50 global experts with technical, policy, media, legal and academic backgrounds to inform our policy development process," Kevin Martin, Facebook's vice president of U.S. public policy, wrote.

Read more here.

 

CAPITAL ONE, GITHUB SUED OVER BREACH: Capital One and GitHub have been hit with a class-action lawsuit over the recent data breach that resulted in the data of over 100 million Capital One customers being exposed.

The law firm Tycko & Zavareei LLP filed the lawsuit on Thursday, arguing that GitHub and Capital One demonstrated negligence in their response to the breach.

The firm filed the class-action complaint on behalf of those impacted by the breach, alleging that both companies failed to protect customer data.

What we know so far: Personal information for tens of millions of customers was exposed after a firewall misconfiguration in an Amazon cloud storage service used by Capital One was exploited.

The breach exposed around 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers, along with the credit card applications of millions in both the U.S. and Canada.

The alleged individual who perpetrated the data breach, Seattle-based software engineer Paige Thompson, was arrested earlier this week.

Thompson, a former Amazon employee, allegedly accessed the data in March and posted about her theft of the information on GitHub in April, according to the complaint.

More on the lawsuit and what's next here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Recent breaches reaffirm it's time to modernize the Social Security Number.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Who says radio interviews can't be explosive?

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Brittany Kaiser's work with Cambridge Analytica helped elect Donald Trump. She's hoping the world will forgive her. (The Washington Post)

The FTC is looking into the Amazon and Apple deal that crushed small resellers. (The Verge) 

Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskMaking space exploration cool again Elon Musk: 'I support Yang' Hillicon Valley: GOP hits back over election security bills | Ratcliffe out for intel chief | Social media companies consider policies targeting 'deepfakes' | Capital One, GitHub sued over breach MORE's Las Vegas tunnel kind of sucks? (Jalopnik)