Senior members of the U.S. intelligence community are appearing Thursday morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The hearing was billed as covering foreign threats to American cybersecurity, and the officials are expected to discuss Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence; Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command; and Marcel Lettre, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence are testifying before the committee, which is chaired by Arizona Republican John McCain.
Intelligence officials have said Russia deliberately tried to influence the November election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee and into the personal emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, among other targets. McCain in particular has been sharply critical of Russia’s meddling, calling the attacks an “act of war.” President-elect Donald Trump, on the other hand, has repeatedly cast doubt on officials’ assessment of Russia’s involvement.
We’ll update this live-blog as the hearing proceeds.
Lindsey Graham: ‘When One Political Party Is Compromised All of Us Are Compromised’
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a frequent critic of Donald Trump during his presidential run, issued a warning to the president-elect on Thursday.
“I want to let the president-elect to know that it’s okay to challenge the intel … but what I don’t want you to do is undermine those who are serving our nation in this arena until you’re absolutely sure they need to be undermined. And I think that they need to be uplifted not undermined,” Graham said at the Senate hearing.
The remarks take aim at Trump, who has cast doubt on the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community. “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a cast. Very strange!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s up to no good, and he better be stopped,” Graham went on to say Thursday. “And Mr. President, when you listen to these people, you can be skeptical, but understand they’re the best among us and they’re trying to protect us.” Earlier in the hearing, Graham said: “The foundation of democracy is political parties, and when one political party is compromised all of us are compromised.”
Trump tweeted Thursday that “the media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, prompted by Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, distinguished between routine espionage and interference in another country’s affairs. Espionage, Clapper said, is the passive collection of information—something all countries routinely do to each other. Retaliating, he said, would be akin to living in a “glass house and throwing rocks.” Interference, though, is active, Clapper added. Graham said the United States should respond to the interference in the U.S. election “with a rock.”
Intelligence Officials Respond Directly to Trump's Comments on Their Work
The officials were asked specifically if Donald Trump's "dismissive attitude" toward the intelligence community—as one Democratic senator characterized it—has affected morale among their employees. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, responded briefly that he "hardly think[s] it helps." But National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers replied in more detail about his concerns:
I don't want to lose good, motivated people who want to help serve this nation because they feel they are not generating value to help that nation. And I'm the first to acknowledge there's room for a wide range of opinions of the results we generated—we don't question that for one minute and every intelligence professional knows that. I have had plenty of times in my career when I have presented my intelligence analysis to commanders and policymakers and they just looked at me and say, “Hey, Mike, thanks, but that is not the way I see it or you're gonna have to sell me on this.” That doesn't bother any of us. What we do, I think, is relevant, and we realize that what we do is—in no small part—driven in part by the confidence of our leaders in what we do. And without that confidence, I just don't want a situation where our workforce decides to walk, because I think that really is not a good place for us to be.
Clapper: 'There's a Difference Between Skepticism and Disparagement'
Senator Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat, asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about who gains when elected officials question the assessments of the intelligence community. She did not explicitly name President-elect Donald Trump, but he seemed to be the target of her query. Clapper responded that skepticism of intelligence information is healthy, but “there's a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”
Those are the most direct public comments yet by an intelligence official about the impact Trump’s sometimes-dismissive remarks are having on the intelligence community.
Senator John McCain asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper whether Julian Assange is a credible source of information. “Not in my view,” Clapper responded.
Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, the website that came to prominence by publishing classified U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010 and also published the hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. His supporters see him as an advocate for transparency, while his detractors believe he should be tried for publishing secrets. Assange has said the DNC emails did not come from Russia, and that the hack could have been carried out by a “14-year-old.” President-elect Donald Trump, who has been skeptical of the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian hacking, seemed to agree with Assange’s assessment on Wednesday, though he appeared to walk back some of that support Thursday.
The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange - wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the people....
More Public Information on Russian Hacks Expected Next Week
In his opening remarks, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, suggested the public will soon learn more about Russia's involvement in the election, when officials release a report with additional details about the hacks. Acknowledging the “great interest” in the election interference, Clapper said officials “plan to brief the Congress and release an unclassified version of this report to the public early next week.” But “until then, we’re really not prepared to discuss this beyond standing by our earlier statements.”
Intelligence officials have also scheduled briefings on the report in the next two days: They’ll meet with President Obama, who requested the report, on Thursday and with President-elect Donald Trump on Friday.
Senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the goal of the hearing isn’t to challenge the results of the election. “As both President Obama and President-elect Trump have said, our nation must move forward,” he said in his opening statement. “But we must do so with full knowledge of the facts.”
But he added, given the scale of Russia’s actions, “every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attacks on our nation. There is no national-security interest more vital to the United States of America than the ability to hold free and fair elections without foreign interference. That is why Congress must set partisanship aside, follow the facts, and work together to devise comprehensive solutions to deter, defend against, and, when necessary, respond to foreign cyberattacks.”
But McCain was quick to add that the cyberthreats the United States faces are a consequence of its own “indecision and inaction.”
“Our nation has had no policy, and thus no strategy, for cyber deterrence,” he said. “This appearance of weakness has been provocative to our adversaries, who have attacked us again and again, with growing severity. Unless we demonstrate that the costs of attacking the United States outweigh the perceived benefits, these cyber threats will only grow.”
In a joint statement timed to today’s hearing, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence; Admiral Mike Rogers, head of U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency; and Marcel Lettre, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said:
Russia is a full-scope cyber actor that poses a major threat to US. Government, military, diplomatic, commercial, and critical infrastructure and key resource networks because of its highly advanced offensive cyber program and sophisticated tactics, techniques, and procedures. In recent years, we have observed the Kremlin assume a more aggressive cyber posture. Russian cyber operations targeted government organizations, critical infrastructure, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations often using campaigns. In foreign countries, Russian actors conducted damaging and/or disruptive cyber- attacks, including attacks on critical infrastructure networks. In some cases Russian intelligence actors have masqueraded as third parties, hiding behind false online personas designed to cause the victim to misattribute the source of the attack. We assess that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized the recent election-focused data thefts and disclosures, based on the scope and sensitivity of the targets. Russia also has used cyber tactics and techniques to seek to influence public opinion across Europe and Eurasia. Looking forward, Russian cyber operations will likely target the United States to gather intelligence, support Russian decision-making, conduct influence operations to support Russian military and political objectives, and prepare the cyber environment for future contingencies.
In its penultimate episode of the season, the show delivered a sleepy collection of surface-level sketches.
Playing a prince tasked with choosing a bride from among three princesses on Saturday Night Live last night, Mikey Day asked a question that turned out to define the episode well: “Okay, is that it?” He raised the inquiry in a sketch poking fun at the rule of three in folklore. His options included a beautiful princess and a smart princess, which meant that something had to have been wrong with the third princess. The prince kept waiting for some unexpected twist, but each princess kept her answers brief—and bland—in the buildup to the quick prop gag that concluded the scene. The colorless bit highlighted SNL’s recent difficulty with developing memorable sociocultural comedy alongside timelier fare.
I found on nearly every page of the manifesto evidence of profound moral deformity.
The alleged teenage mass shooter in Buffalo, New York, wrote and posted a 180-page manifesto. I read the whole thing, and the only part that surprised me was the banality of his stated intention to eat “corn beef hash” for breakfast, followed by lunch at McDonald’s, before killing as many Black people as possible. He expects to go to prison and either die there or someday be freed as a hero, after white people fight back en masse against the attempt to “replace” them in the lands where they live. Committing what he calls “an act of terrorism” is his method of warning all non-white people to “leave [white territory] while you still can, as long as the White man lives you will never be safe here.”
Hundreds of thousands of deaths, from either tobacco or the pandemic, could be prevented with a single behavioral change.
It’s suddenly become acceptable to say that COVID is—or will soon be—like the flu. Such analogies have long been the preserve of pandemic minimizers, but lately they’ve been creeping into more enlightened circles. Last month the dean of a medical school wrote an open letter to his students suggesting that for a vaccinated person, the risk of death from COVID-19 is “in the same realm, or even lower, as the average American’s risk from flu.” A few days later, David Leonhardt said as much to his millions of readers in the The New York Times’ morning newsletter. And three prominent public-health experts have called for the government to recognize a “new normal” in which the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus “is but one of several circulating respiratory viruses that include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and more.”
America’s baby-formula shortage has gone from curious inconvenience to full-blown national crisis.
In many states, including Texas and Tennessee, more than half of formula is sold out in stores. Nationwide, 40 percent of formula is out of stock—a twentyfold increase since the first half of 2021. As parents have started to stockpile formula, retailers such as Walgreens, CVS, and Target have all moved to limit purchases.
The everything shortage isn’t new. But rationing essentials for desperate parents? That’s a twisted turn in the story of American scarcity.
Three factors are driving the U.S. baby-formula shortage: bacteria, a virus, and a trade policy.
First, the bacteria. After the recent deaths of at least two infants from a rare infection, the Food and Drug Administration investigated Abbott, a major producer of infant formula, and discovered traces of the pathogen Cronobacter sakazakii in a Michigan plant. As a result, the FDA recalled several brands of formula, and parents were advised to not buy or use some formula tied to the plant.
A manifesto is not something to be ignored; it’s a playbook for the next attack.
The mass shooting of Black grocery shoppers in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday follows a string of similar attacks. Gunmen have targeted worshippers at synagogues and mosques and temples and Bible study; they have opened fire on summer camps and people at festivals. We know the names of these places: Charleston; El Paso; Poway; Pittsburgh; Oak Creek; Christchurch, New Zealand. We know the names of the shooters, too, although I won’t list them here, because adding to their notoriety deepens the problem.
Some of us also know by now that although we might think these are attacks on specific victim groups—and they are attacks on Black, Jewish, Islamic, Sikh, Latino, and immigrant populations—the aforementioned examples have all been part of one movement. In each event, a white-power activist was the perpetrator. Several of the assailants wrote extensively about their motivations in manifestos that outlined a coherent political ideology. And in the United States, they have been backed by a broad social movement that our legislators have failed to condemn, that our court system has failed to prosecute, and that our society has not stopped.
This article was featured in One Story to Read Today, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a single must-read from The Atlantic, Monday through Friday. Sign up for it here.
“Think of this as a travel piece,” she might have written. “Imagine it in Sunset magazine: ‘Five Great California Stops Along the Joan Didion Trail.’ ”
Or think of this as what it really is: a road trip of magical thinking.
I had known that Didion’s Parkinson’s was advancing; seven or eight months earlier, someone had told me that she was vanishing; someone else had told me that for the past two years, she hadn’t been able to speak.
The American economy isn’t looking great right now. U.S. GDP shrank last quarter, despite a hearty showing from American consumers. Inflation is high; markets are down; both wages and personal-savings rates show some troubling statistical signals. Is the U.S. destined to have a recession in 2022? I don’t know for sure. But here are nine signs that worry me.
1.Everybody’s stock portfolio is disgusting right now. The Nasdaq is down 30 percent. Growth stocks and pandemic darlings such as Peloton and Zoom have crashed more than twice that amount. Hedge funds that backed these growth stocks, including Ark and Tiger Global, have been crushed. If you look at your 401(k), you’ll see that … no, scratch that, you should under no circumstances look at your 401(k).
Even when a shooter acts alone, their ideology is often shared.
Wolves are not a particularly special species. They are not as menacing nor as powerful as mountain lions. They are not as big as many other predators, nor as strong, nor terribly wise, nor do they have sophisticated tools or genetic dispositions that make them individually dangerous in the animal kingdom. Their ability to capture prey worthier than themselves results from collaboration—from the pack.
Once prey is targeted, the pack first disperses, then surrounds the victim—some wolves from the front, others from the back. The wolf pack’s defining feared feature is that it does not work alone. The lone wolf, in the animal kingdom, is not powerful; it is weak. The wolf, acting alone, is not something to fear. Lone wolves do not massacre, because they can’t.
What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower “with its top in the heavens” to “make a name” for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:
Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.
The text does not say that God destroyed the tower, but in many popular renderings of the story he does, so let’s hold that dramatic image in our minds: people wandering amid the ruins, unable to communicate, condemned to mutual incomprehension.
The Trump effect has helped make Australia’s democracy more untruthful, cynical, angrily partisan, culturally charged, and politicized.
In late 2021, as Australian cities were seeing anti-lockdown and anti-vaxxer protests against the country’s long-running pandemic restrictions and newly implemented vaccine mandates, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted “Don’t Australia my America.” As someone who has recently moved back to Sydney after covering the Trump presidency for the BBC, I have instead found myself thinking the opposite: Don’t America my Australia. The American variant of democracy is contaminating the body politic of my home.
My family left the United States partly to escape its politics, so it was jolting to watch Trump banners that I was more used to seeing in Mississippi and rural Michigan being brandished on the streets of Melbourne. But the Trump paraphernalia, and crowds of Australian protesters that resemble mosh pits of MAGA diehards, have been only a mild form of the sickness. There have been more malign manifestations. Some lawmakers in the state of Victoria who backed tough lockdown measures received death and rape threats. Demonstrations at its assembly building in Melbourne frequently turned ugly. Protesters urinated on the city’s most sacred site, its temple-like Shrine of Remembrance. A gallows was even paraded through the streets, upon which was hung an effigy of Victoria’s state premier, Daniel Andrews, who has become a demonized figure similar to Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer. In November, counterterrorism police arrested and charged a man alleged to have encouraged fellow protesters to come with firearms so they could execute “Dictator Dan.”