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.
Ford’s electric Mustang, the Mach-E, is attracting an unusual bunch of drivers—including me.
Earlier this month, a brand-new Ford Mustang rolled into my driveway and hummed itself to a halt. The scene was a straight shot of Americana concentrate: The dirt crunched beneath the car’s tires; the sun glinted off the red paint on its aptly equine-esque snout, helping it easily outshine every other vehicle on the block. Then the front driver’s-side door opened, and out emerged not a middle-aged man who’d bought into the brand’s bid to be “cool, clever, and tough,” but instead … me.
Me, with my herbal tea and cat-fur-covered Patagonia backpack, my wallet full of Trader Joe’s receipts. Me, an Asian American woman in her 30s who hates roller coasters, who’s never finished an entire serving of beer, and whose ideal car for the past two decades has been a Toyota Prius. “You are the last person I would expect to buy a Mustang,” one of my colleagues told me after recovering from a laughing fit.
Opponents of COVID vaccines terrorize grieving families on social media.
My 6-year-old boy died in January. We lost him after a household accident, one likely brought on by a rare cerebral-swelling condition. Paramedics got his heart beating, but it was too late to save his brain. I could hold his hand, look at the small birthmark on it, comb his hair, and call out for him, but if he could hear me or feel me, he gave no sign. He had been a child in perpetual motion, but now we couldn’t get him to wiggle a finger.
My grief is profound, ragged, desperate. I cannot imagine how anything could feel worse.
But vaccine opponents on the internet, who somehow assumed that a COVID shot was responsible for my son's death, thought my family’s pain was funny. “Lol. Yay for the jab. Right? Right?” wrote one person on Twitter. “Your decision to vaccinate your son resulted in his death,” wrote another. “This is all on YOU.” “Murder in the first.”
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In the course of a single month this year, the following news reports emanated from Florida: A gun enthusiast in Tampa built a 55-foot backyard pool shaped like a revolver, with a hot tub in the hammer. A 32-year-old from Cutler Bay was arrested for biting off the head of his girlfriend’s pet python during a domestic dispute. A 40-year-old man cracked open a beer during a police traffic stop in Cape Coral. A father from East Orlando punched a bobcat in the face for attacking his daughter’s dog.
In headlines, all of these exploits were attributed to a single character, one first popularized in 2013 by a Twitter account of the same name: “Florida Man,” also known as “the world’s worst superhero,” a creature of eccentric rule-breaking, rugged defiance, and unhinged minor atrocities. “Florida Man Known as ‘Sedition Panda’ Arrested for Allegedly Storming Capitol,” a recent news story declared, because why merely rebel against the government when you could dress up in a bear suit while doing it?
The U.S. requires parents to work in order to receive aid but does very little to enable parents to work—or workers to parent.
In the midst of the pandemic, hundreds of dollars began to appear each month in the bank accounts of American parents. The deposits were an expansion of the child tax credit, meant to help families cope with the pressures of lockdown, and recipients no longer needed to earn a minimum income to be eligible. Unlike before, unemployed parents could benefit too. Reaching many of the families left out by other cash-aid programs, the expanded child tax credit lifted millions of kids out of poverty, reducing food insecurity and anxiety among low-income parents along the way. But amid concerns frompoliticiansand pundits that the credit would discourage parents from working outside the home, Congress allowed it to expire at the end of 2021. The decision reflected a position toward needy families that has dominated policy making for decades: The government doesn’t just give money away. If parents want help, they’re going to have to work for it.
Despite their initial mixed reviews, each of these titles is fascinating, complicated, and worth a try.
Critics aren’t always aligned in their judgments; part of the job description, in fact, is to be ready for disagreement. I’ve had many private disputes about books with colleagues. Many whom I respect hate some titles that I adore. The opposite has also been true—sometimes we come to the near-identical conclusion.
But then there are those moments when a critical mass gathers behind a negative assessment of a book, and the title can wind up losing not just a readership but also the chance at a longer life. Things don’t always work out that way—we’ve all read the stories about contemporary pans of now-classic books, such as Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (“wantonly eccentric; outrageously bombastic”), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (“no more than a glorified anecdote” with characters like “marionettes”), and Toni Morrison’s Jazz (one reviewer called the author “bedazzled by her own virtuosity,” as incorrect as anyone has ever been). But although criticism does depend on individual sensibility and taste, very good books can still get unfair shakes, even from the most conscientious writers.
Almost 30 years after a cult leader caused a disaster in Waco, Trump rallied his own political cult—and the location cannot be a coincidence—in that same Texas city. The Waco tent revival featured the usual Trumpian cast of grifters, carnies, and misfits, including the fan favorites Mike Lindell and Ted Nugent. Most of the former president’s speech was, of course, about himself and his many grievances, and the crowd reportedly began to thin out somewhat early.
The Israeli prime minister and his radical allies pushed the country to the brink—and inspired the greatest mass movement in its history.
Last night, hundreds of thousands of Israelis poured into the streets, believing their country’s democracy to be in peril. The immediate precipitant for this popular protest was the firing of Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister. A former general tasked with overseeing the Jewish state’s security, Gallant had called for his own coalition to pause its attempted overhaul of the Israeli judicial system, arguing that division around the plan was undermining national cohesion. Rather than accede to Gallant’s proposal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired him. But although this removal provided the spark for Israel’s extraordinary explosion of civil dissent, the tinder had been building for months.
Israeli demonstrators have worn the mantle of patriotism, and it’s worked.
Every visit I’ve ever made to Israel has included a screaming match with my relatives there. I know: They’re Israelis. It’s to be expected. It’s how they show love. But the fights always resulted from the gentlest of prodding on my part—about the occupation, about the expanding role of religious authorities, about why Israeli taxi drivers can seem so obnoxious. They would respond with disproportionate defensiveness, even when I knew that my family of Tel Aviv centrists basically agreed with me. The questioning itself, especially from someone who didn’t live there, was the problem. I would be reminded that only two paths were open to me—pro-Israel or anti-Israel—and that simply by opening my mouth I had made a choice, the wrong one. There are a hundred reasons not to criticize the embattled Jewish state, I was told, and that was doubly true for me, an outsider, an American.
A generation of Americans still can’t escape the threat of COVID.
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Last December, during a Christmas Eve celebration with my in-laws in California, I observed what I now realize was the future of COVID for older people. As everyone crowded around the bagna cauda, a hot dipping sauce shared like fondue, it was clear that we, as a family, had implicitly agreed that the pandemic was over. Our nonagenarian relatives were not taking any precautions, nor was anyone else taking precautions to protect them. Endive spear in hand, I squeezed myself in between my 94-year-old grandfather-in-law and his spry 99-year-old sister and dug into the dip.
These titles conjure their settings so vividly that you’ll feel as if you’re there.
Much of the plot of Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop is lost to me, though I consider it one of my favorite books. I have a sense that it involves a young priest rising through the ranks of the Catholic Church as New Mexico is flooded by settlers, and I also know that—spoiler alert!—he dies at the end. But what remain indelible are two oddly mathematical vistas. In the novel’s opening pages, a man winds his way through an endless landscape of conical red hills, so alike that “he seemed to be wandering in some geometrical nightmare.” Later, the bishop rides through the country and notices that the world is like a giant mirror: “Every mesa was duplicated by a cloud mesa, like a reflection, which lay motionless above it or moved slowly up from behind it.”