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.
The United States has allied with Britain and Australia to form a new anti-China grouping.
A new world is beginning to take shape, even if it remains disguised in the clothes of the old.
The United States, Britain, and Australia have announced what is in effect a new “Anglo” military alliance. The basics are these: In 2016, Australia struck a deal with France to buy a fleet of diesel-powered submarines, rejecting an Anglo-American alternative for nuclear-powered vessels. In March this year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (or, “that fellow down under,” as Joe Biden referred to him), began talking with Washington about reversing its decision. Then, last night, in a live three-way public announcement, Biden, Morrison, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that the Australians would scrap their agreement with France to team up with Britain and the U.S. instead, forming a new “AUKUS” military alliance in the process.
Sure, it may be true. But that doesn’t mean it’s productive.
“Your refusal has cost all of us,” President Joe Biden said to unvaccinated people last week, as he announced a new COVID-vaccine mandate for all workers at private companies with more than 100 employees. The vaccinated, he said, are angry and frustrated with the nearly 80 million people who still haven’t received a vaccine, and their patience “is wearing thin.”
He’s not wrong about that. For people who understand that widespread vaccination is our best strategy for beating the pandemic, the 25 percent of Americans who still haven’t received a single shot are a barrier to freedom. Their exasperation is warranted.
But bullying the unvaccinated into getting their shots isn’t going to work in the long run.
What I learned about transcendence from a very boring 100-mile trek
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.
Last month, a survey by the travel industry found that a majority of Americans changed their vacation plans this summer because of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. But not everyone canceled their vacations entirely; travel spending has been almost as high this summer as it was in the summer of 2019. Some would-be adventurers simply found ways to do the exotic things they’d planned to do overseas in less exotic places. One of my friends, for instance, went bungee jumping in North Carolina instead of Costa Rica.
For my vacation, I did the opposite: I went with my family to a fairly exotic place to do a distinctly unexotic thing. I went to Spain and took a very quiet 100-mile walk.
Anyone who’d rather have COVID-19 than get vaccinated is taking two gambles: that immunity will stick around, and that symptoms won’t.
Immune cells can learn the vagaries of a particular infectious disease in two main ways. The first is bona fide infection, and it’s a lot like being schooled in a war zone, where any lesson in protection might come at a terrible cost. Vaccines, by contrast, safely introduce immune cells to only the harmless mimic of a microbe, the immunological equivalent of training guards to recognize invaders before they ever show their face. The first option might be more instructive and immersive—it is, after all, the real thing. But the second has a major advantage: It provides crucial intel in the absence of risk.
Some pathogens aren’t memorable to the body, no matter the form in which they’re introduced. But with SARS-CoV-2, we’ve been lucky: Both inoculationand infection can marshal stellar protection. Past tussles with the virus, in fact, seem so immunologically instructive that in many places, including several nations in the European Union, Israel, and the United Kingdom, they can grant access to restaurants, bars, and travel hubs galore, just as full vaccination does.
A new study suggests that almost half of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have mild or asymptomatic cases.
At least 12,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19 this month, as the country inches through its latest surge in cases. But another worrying statistic is often cited to depict the dangers of this moment: The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States right now is as high as it has been since the beginning of February. It’s even worse in certain places: Some states, including Arkansas and Oregon, recently saw their COVID hospitalizations rise to higher levels than at any prior stage of the pandemic. But how much do those latter figures really tell us?
From the start, COVID hospitalizations have served as a vital metric for tracking the risks posed by the disease. Last winter, this magazine described it as “the most reliable pandemic number,” while Vox quoted the cardiologist Eric Topol as saying that it’s “the best indicator of where we are.” On the one hand, death counts offer finality, but they’re a lagging signal and don’t account for people who suffered from significant illness but survived. Case counts, on the other hand, depend on which and how many people happen to get tested. Presumably, hospitalization numbers provide a more stable and reliable gauge of the pandemic’s true toll, in terms of severe disease. But a new, nationwide study of hospitalization records, released as a preprint today (and not yet formally peer reviewed), suggests that the meaning of this gauge can easily be misinterpreted—and that it has been shifting over time.
I like to think of America’s fast-food chains as a bunch of dysfunctional family members. McDonald’s is the golden boy, the kid who’s good at everything and won’t shut up about it. Burger King is the jealous younger brother. KFC is perhaps the cousin who still wears cargo shorts. And then, there’s Taco Bell: fast food’s problem child.
The purveyor of fluorescent nacho cheese is just plain weird. I’m not simply talking about those tacos with Doritos for shells. This is a brand that reportedly spent $500 million on an ad campaign featuring Gidget, a talking chihuahua with the catchphrase “Yo quiero Taco Bell!” A completely real tagline on Taco Bell’s webpage for its fountain drinks reads: “Taco Bell Cups, Matryoshka Dolls, and the Multiplicity of Human Existence.” (It only gets weirder from there.)
Vanishingly few people have legitimate reasons to avoid COVID-19 vaccination. Some say their doctors told them not to get vaccinated anyway.
In the battle against vaccine hesitancy, many officials have suggested that people talk with their doctor if they have concerns about getting vaccinated. This advice makes a certain amount of sense. Primary-care physicians are typically the doctors patients trust most, and doctors deeply understand the benefits of vaccines. The American Medical Association has claimed, based on a survey it conducted, that 96 percent of doctors are fully vaccinated.
In recent weeks, though, I’ve heard from several people with an interesting excuse for waiting to get vaccinated: They say their doctors told them not to. Most of the people I spoke with requested anonymity so they could share sensitive health information. Most would also not give me their doctors’ names in order to shield the providers from negative consequences. The doctors whose names I did get did not return my calls or declined to comment for this story, leaving it unclear what they really think about vaccine exemptions. Some of the people I spoke with may simply be vaccine-hesitant and trying to blame a doctor for their own choice to delay or forgo getting a vaccine. But because doctors are a large and relatively diverse group of people, with varied training, credentials, and personal politics, it makes sense that some doctors would have incorrect views about vaccination.
Will the Black body ever have the opportunity to rest in peace?
The photographs are about the size of a small hand. They’re wrapped in a leatherette case and framed in gold. From the background of one, the image of a Black woman’s body emerges. Her hair is plaited close to her head, and she is naked from the waist up. Her stare seems to penetrate the glass of the frame, peering into the eyes of the viewer. The paper label that accompanies her likeness reads: Delia, country born of African parents, daughter of Renty, Congo. In another frame, her father stands before the camera, his collarbone prominent, and his temples peppered with gray and white hair. The label on his photo says: Renty, Congo, on plantation of B.F. Taylor, Columbia, S.C.
In 1850, when these images were captured, the subjects in the daguerreotypes were considered property. The bodies in the photographs had been shaped by hard labor on the grub plantation, where they’d spent their lives stooped over sandy soil, working approximately 1,200 acres of cotton and 200 of corn. Brought from the fields to a photography studio in Columbia, South Carolina, each person was photographed from different angles, in the hopes of finding photographic evidence of physical differences between the Black enslaved and the white masters who owned them. A daguerreotype took somewhere between three and 15 minutes of exposure time, and the end result was a detailed image imprinted on a small copper-plated sheet, covered with a thin coat of silver.
The battles over “virginity testing” and “virginity-restoration surgery” reveal the persistence of dangerous pseudoscience.
In the Middle Ages, a royal bride would be inspected before her wedding night to make sure she was a virgo intacta—a virgin with an intact hymen covering the entrance to her vagina. “The Hymen is a membrane not altogether without blood,” wrote the 17th-century court obstetrician Louise Bourgeois. “In the middle it hath a little hole, through which the menses are voided. This at the first time of copulation is broken, which causes some pain, and gushing forth of some quantity of blood; which is an evident sign of virginity.”
In reality, some girls are born without a hymen, while others tear the membrane long before they have sex, most commonly by exercising or, today, by using tampons. Yet the demand for virginity testing—typically, a gynecological exam in which a doctor looks for the presence of a hymen—has proved surprisingly durable. In 1979, the British government performed one on a 35-year-old Indian woman who had traveled to London to get married, in order “to see whether she was, in fact, a bona fide virgin.” (The Guardian later revealed that immigration officials subjected more than 80 women to such tests from 1976 to 1979.) The Egyptian authorities used the pretext of virginity inspections to assault female protesters during the Arab Spring in 2011, and until July of this year the Indonesian military regularly performed such assessments not only on female recruits, but also on the fiancées of its male soldiers.
To celebrities, the red carpet of the Met Gala is like an average person’s front lawn: a place for making bold statements. The event, an annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, is made for flaunting ostentatious couture. The dress code is determined by a theme—this year’s was “American Independence,” in honor of a forthcoming exhibition—that can be interpreted however an attendee prefers. Tickets are $35,000 a pop. And for four hours, the invitees—normally the most relevant cultural figures of the year—get to mug for the camera before heading inside. As a red-carpet co-host, the actor Keke Palmer, declared at the top of last night’s show, “You can never go wrong with a message.”