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.
Adam Tooze, a historian of economic disaster, sees a combination of worrisome signs.
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America and the world are living through what Adam Tooze, the internet’s foremost historian of money and disaster, describes as a “polycrisis.” As he sips a beer at a bar near Columbia University, where he is the director of the European Institute, Tooze talks through a long list of challenges: War, raising the specter of nuclear conflict. Climate change, threatening famine, flood, and fire. Inflation, forcing central banks to crush consumer demand. The pandemic, closing factories and overloading hospitals. Each crisis is hard enough to parse by itself; the interconnected mess of them is infinitely more so. And he feels “the whole is even more dangerous than the sum of the parts.”
Office workers work in offices, for better or for worse.
I noticed the shoes first. That I was wearing them. Real shoes, the leather kind, with laces. After a year and a half, I was finally returning to the office, and that meant giving up the puffer slippers and slides that had sustained me for so long. Real shoes, I quickly remembered, are terrible. Likewise pants. Likewise getting to work, and being at work. Whew.
That was summer 2021. I’ve since acclimated to the office once again: I don the uniform; I make the commute; I pour the coffee; I do my job; and then I go back home. There are costs to this arrangement, clearly. I lose some time—time I could spend working!—transporting myself, in shoes and pants, from one building to another. I miss the chance to finish household tasks between my meetings, or fix myself a healthy and affordable lunch. As a university professor and administrator, I have more flexibility than most professionals, and I’m not required to go in each and every day. But even so, I have less control over each hour of my life than I used to—a fact that could very well be making me less productive overall. Indeed, it’s possible, or even likely, that my employer—and yours—could help their workers and the bottom line, simply by allowing us to work from home or come in on a hybrid plan. Remote, flexible employment might be a win for everyone.
Carl von Clausewitz observed in his classic On War that “the maximum use of force is by no means incompatible with the simultaneous use of the intellect.” That means, in part, acting thoughtfully but with the utmost effort, understanding that war is more bar fight than chess game. Or, to put it in the simpler words of Jim Malone, Eliot Ness’s counselor in The Untouchables, “You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone.”
Al Capone is an apt analogy for what the West confronts in Russia: a particularly noxious mix of Mafia mentality, hypernationalist ideology, and totalitarian technique. Elegance is not the Russian way, and it cannot be our way. This is the light in which one should measure the accomplishments of NATO’s recent gathering in Madrid.
The planet is looking extra sharp in photo dispatches from NASA’s newest rover.
When Corrine Rojas comes into work, Mars is waiting for her. She drives to the office, grabs a cup of coffee, and then pulls up the latest dispatches from Perseverance, a car-size NASA rover situated inside a crater in Mars’s northern hemisphere. Rojas, an operations engineer at Arizona State University, checks that the rover’s main cameras are working well, and that they took the shots scientists back home had asked for. Then, she basks in the wondrous sights of our celestial neighbor. “I am often the first person to lay eyes on photos from Mars taken by the rover,” Rojas told me.
And Mars has been looking particularly good lately. That’s not to say that the planet has been working on its appearance; aside from the winds blowing around some dust, it has remained mostly unchanged for a few billion years. The difference is us, and particularly the Perseverance mission, which has captured some of the sharpest views of the Martian surface to date. The rover’s job is to search for potential signs of fossilized life in the rock, but since it arrived last February, it has become quite the landscape photographer.
Too many Americans are blithely dismissing threats that could prove cataclysmic.
Even as we watch the reservoirs and lakes of the West go dry, we keep watering our lawns, soaking our golf courses, and growing water-thirsty crops.
As inflation mounts and the national debt balloons, progressive politicians vote for ever more spending.
As the ice caps melt and record temperatures make the evening news, we figure that buying a Prius and recycling the boxes from our daily Amazon deliveries will suffice.
When TV news outlets broadcast video after video of people illegally crossing the nation’s southern border, many of us change the channel.
And when a renowned conservative former federal appellate judge testifies that we are already in a war for our democracy and that January 6, 2021, was a genuine constitutional crisis, MAGA loyalists snicker that he speaks slowly and celebrate that most people weren’t watching.
Pop culture tends to romanticize bookstores as workplaces. Imogen Binnie’s Nevada does the opposite.
Many writers have to wait until old age to see their work reissued. Imogen Binnie, whose debut novel, Nevada, came out in 2013, only had to wait nine years. Nevada was first released by Topside Press, an indie publisher that was run by trans editors and that put out primarily trans literature. It became a word-of-mouth hit, generating what the writer Casey Plett calls a “communal response,” especially among trans and queer readers. After Topside folded in 2017, taking the book out of print, fans kept Nevada alive—discussing it, recommending it, and distributing it via a site called Have You Read Nevada? Eventually, one such fan, the editor Jackson Howard, reached out to Binnie, which led to Farrar, Straus & Giroux reissuing the book this summer.
In pursuit of money, universities and conferences are uprooting traditional rivalries and regional loyalties.
College-sports traditionalists were appalled last week when the Big Ten athletic conference announced that it will add UCLA and the University of Southern California to its membership in 2024—creating a seismic shift in the college-sports landscape that will generate millions of dollars in revenue for the two California powerhouse programs.
This reorganization is the strongest indicator yet that college sports is cannibalizing itself. In pursuit of greater revenue from broadcast rights, schools and conferences are more and more willing to ignore traditional rivalries, customs, and regional loyalties.
For now, USC and UCLA are members of the Pac-12, long the premier conference in the West. Athletes at the two schools are about to spend a lot more time traveling to play faraway new rivals in the Midwest, where the Big Ten is based. But many college football programs are going to be facing new realities. CBS Sports reported that another major conference, the Big 12, may soon peel as many as six more members away from the now-beleaguered Pac-12.
Shared rides are back for the first time since March 2020. Did anyone notice?
In the end, Uber Pool had to go. By mid-March 2020, chunks of America were already in lockdown, AMC had boarded up its movie theaters, and the country’s toilet-paper reserves were getting wiped out. The novel coronavirus was here, and sharing rides with strangers in a different stranger’s car had become yet another part of life upended by the pandemic. “If you must travel” using any of Uber’s other options, the company made sure to note on March 17, the day it officially disabled the pooling feature on its app, “please keep your driver’s well-being in mind by washing your hands before and after entering the vehicle.”
Before the pandemic, shared rides (both from Uber Pool and its biggest competitor, Lyft Line) were an inescapable part of urban life for the professional class. They were the dive bar of ride hailing: always cheap, mostly chaotic. But while just about every other mode of transportation has long since returned—goodbye masks on planes, hello cruise ships—Uber Pool has been nowhere to be found. Yes, people can still order Ubers for themselves, but the drama (and the very occasional joy) of schlepping across town while avoiding eye contact with two other Poolers has vanished.
“I imagine this is what grapefruit juice mixed with soap would taste like.”
More than two years into this pandemic, we finally have an antiviral treatment that works pretty darn well. Paxlovid cuts a vulnerable adult’s chances of hospitalization or death from COVID by nearly 90 percent if taken in the first few days of an infection. For adults without risk-heightening factors, it reduces that likelihood by 70 percent. Also, it might make your mouth taste like absolute garbage the whole time you’re taking the pills.
In Pfizer’s clinical trials, about 5.6 percent of patients reported an “altered sense of taste,” called dysgeusia in the medical literature. A Pfizer spokesperson assured me that “most events were mild” and “very few patients discontinued study as a result”; the outer packaging of the drug doesn’t mention it at all, and the patient fact sheet breezes past it. But Paxlovid-takers told me it’s absolutely dysgeusting.
How to flaunt your modesty online, in three easy steps
“I was humbled to be awarded an honorary degree by the London School of Economics earlier this week. Thank you so much for this prestigious honour!”
— Tweet from Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank
Whenever I feel particularly humble, I tweet about myself. I have never earned an honorary degree from the London School of Economics, but if I ever did, I’d certainly tweet the hell out of it. I’d want to let the world know how humbled the experience had made me. I’d tweet my humility, Instagram my humility, and maybe even TikTok it if I could find dance moves humble enough to make my point.
In the meantime, I’m humbled by Lagarde’s tweet. I have spent years studying the fine art of humility display, and I am humbled by her masterful show of it. If you’ve spent any time on social media, and especially if you’re around the high-status world of the achievatrons, you are probably familiar with the basic rules of the form. The first rule is that you must never tweet about any event that could actually lead to humility. Never tweet: “I’m humbled that I went to a party, and nobody noticed me.” Never tweet: “I’m humbled that I got fired for incompetence.”