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.
An indictment of former President Donald Trump would offer the agency a chance to restore its tarnished reputation.
Whether Donald Trump is arrested and booked on Tuesday or not for a case involving a payoff to the porn star Stormy Daniels—something only he has predicted—the potential arrest of a former United States president is not only unprecedented but actually quite technically challenging. How does one arrest a former president in a democracy that has never faced this prospect before? The fate Trump may finally face in a courtroom is not the only reckoning coming around the bend. For the U.S. Secret Service, this is an opportunity for a course correction.
After years in which some agents acted as Trump’s loyal servants, the Secret Service must get back to basics. Although the agency faced considerable challenges before Trump became president, by the end of his presidency, its critics charged that its loyalty to the United States had been subsumed by its loyalty to a man. Trump regularly grifted off the service, charging it exorbitant hotel fees for his own protection on his properties. Trump broke the tradition of separating politics from protection when he appointed the deputy assistant director of the Secret Service, Anthony Ornato, to be his own deputy chief of staff; the service seemed a willing accomplice to Trump’s agenda. The roles played by both Ornato and the service in the January 6 insurrection were, at best, an embarrassing mess and, at worst, a sign that the service was not salvageable.
“Ship American” might sound nice in theory. This is what it looks like in practice: not shipping much of anything in America at all.
What with everything going on in the world, stewing over an obscure, century-old maritime law might seem odd. But the Jones Act really does warrant such consternation. It’s not just a terrible law that hurts you, me, and everyone we know—especially if they live in Puerto Rico or drive to work on the East Coast. It’s also a cautionary tale against government industrial policies, which can have unintended consequences far beyond higher prices or budget overrun.
The Jones Act, formally known as Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was ostensibly intended to ensure adequate domestic shipbuilding capacity and a ready supply of merchant mariners and ships in times of war or other national emergencies. Today, it requires that any domestic waterborne shipping of goods be conducted on vessels that are built, owned, flagged, and crewed by Americans. As a result, the U.S. has one of the most (if not the most) restrictive shipping systems in the world.
At her epic opening show, the pop star played 44 songs and conjured actual magic.
Updated at 11:24 a.m. ET on March 19, 2023
Breaking: Taylor Swift is not simply a voice in our ears or an abstract concept to argue over at parties, but a flesh-and-blood being with a taste for sparkling pajamas and the stamina of a ram. All concerts are conjurings, turning the audience’s idea of a performer into a real thing, but last night’s kickoff of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour in Glendale, Arizona, heightened the amazement with Houdini-escapes-handcuffs physicality. After years of having their inner lives shaped by Swift’s highly mediated virtual output, more than 70,000 individuals can now attest to the vibrancy of Taylor Swift the person. Somehow, seeing her up close made her seem more superhuman.
As they look toward the 2024 election, Americans must ask which leader can win the peace.
The next president will almost certainly inherit some kind of peace in Ukraine. As the economist Herb Stein said, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” This war cannot go on forever, certainly not at its current intensity. It will stop or dwindle into a cease-fire, official or otherwise. The potential contenders for the 2024 U.S. presidential election talk about how to deal with the conflict, but by the time one of them gets the job, he or she will most likely face the question of how to deal with the aftermath.
So, in assessing the presumptive candidates for president, a crucial question to ponder is: Who would be the most successful peacemaker?
Ukraine will have to be rebuilt, a mission that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Some of that money can perhaps be squeezed from Russia—for example, by transferring frozen Russian assets to Ukraine. But the greater part will likely have to come from Ukraine’s Western allies.
If arrested, he’s called on “protesters” to come to his defense.
Let us begin with the obvious thing that just happened: This morning, Donald Trump threatened to summon a mob—for the second time in two years—to his defense. The former president of the United States and a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for the White House in 2024, facing a possible indictment in New York, claimed to know the exact day on which he would be arrested and then called on his supporters to “protest.” Trump and his cult know what a call for “protest” means: The last time he rallied his faithful supporters this way, they stormed the U.S. Capitol, which resulted in death and destruction and many, many prison sentences.
Spokespeople from the former president’s office have already walked back Trump’s statement, noting that they have not been told of any specific date for an indictment or an arrest. Indeed, any attempt to book Trump is unlikely to happen as soon as Tuesday, for many reasons. But that’s not the point. Trump’s message today to the American people has already come through loud and clear: I am too dangerous to arrest.
A new analysis of genetic samples from China appears to link the pandemic’s origin to raccoon dogs.
Updated at 4:13 p.m. ET on March 18, 2023
For three years now, the debate over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic has ping-ponged between two big ideas: that SARS-CoV-2 spilled into human populations directly from a wild-animal source, and that the pathogen leaked from a lab. Through a swirl of data obfuscation by Chinese authorities and politicalization within the United States, and rampant speculation from all corners of the world, many scientists have stood by the notion that this outbreak—like most others—had purely natural roots. But that hypothesis has been missing a key piece of proof: genetic evidence from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, showing that the virus had infected creatures for sale there.
When you’re feeling stuck, focusing on the things you hate can help.
“How to Build a Life” is a column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.
How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Perhaps that’s a sore subject. Resolutions usually fail, sometimes even in the first few months of the year (one study found that half dissolved after three months), so odds are good that yours have too. If so, don’t feel too bad! Clearly, you’re in good company.
If your resolutions have become a statistic, let me suggest a new approach for the remainder of the year: Create a list of anti-resolutions. These are things you want to not do this year, such as spending time with particular people who don’t bring out your best, or going places you don’t enjoy. That might sound a little too, well, negative, but it’s actually an approach to life improvement based on an ancient philosophical concept known as the via negativa.
“Big government” just isn’t the effective attack it used to be.
During Barack Obama’s first term, the American right became fixated on the supposed threats of communism and socialism. At the time, it felt like another weird throwback trend from the Cold War, along with flared jeans, gated reverb, or Jell-O molds. The proximate causes were clear enough—huge government spending to bolster the economy (by, uh, bailing out banks, but whatever) and efforts to expand health-insurance coverage—even if fears of a coming socialist America were clearly overhyped.
Seen from today, that moment looks less like a quirky cyclical trend and more like the passing of an era. “Wokeness” has supplanted socialism as the primary bogeyman among conservative politicians and pundits. The eclipse is evident in Google search trends and Fox News time allocation, and it has also been on vivid display over the past week, as leading figures in the Republican Party and right-wing media have portrayed the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank as a case of woke values undermining sound business practices and diversity, equity, and inclusion supplanting the profit motive. Complaints about bailouts have been mostly the province of the left—which objects not to government spending but to helping the wealthy.
Several years ago, Christian Rutz started to wonder whether he was giving his crows enough credit. Rutz, a biologist at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, and his team were capturing wild New Caledonian crows and challenging them with puzzles made from natural materials before releasing them again. In one test, birds faced a log with drilled holes that contained hidden food; they could get the food out by bending a plant stem into a hook. If a bird didn’t try within 90 minutes, the researchers removed it from the data set.
But, Rutz says, he soon began to realize that he was not, in fact, studying the skills of New Caledonian crows. He was studying the skills of a subset of New Caledonian crows that quickly approached a weird log they’d never seen before—maybe because they were especially brave or reckless.
Bob and Sheryl Guterl saw their family as a kind of “ark for the age of the nuclear bomb” and attempted to gather “two of every race.”
Growing up as the adopted Korean daughter of white parents in a predominantly white community, I discovered early on that my presence was often a surprise, a question to which others expected answers. I soon learned how to respond to the curiosity of teachers at school, strangers at Sears, friends who had finally worked up the nerve to ask Who are your real parents? Why did they give you up? Are you going to try to find them someday? I told them the same story my adoptive parents had told me: My birth parents were unable to take care of a fragile, premature baby. They believed that another family would provide me with a better life. And so I was adopted and became my parents’ beloved only child—a “miracle,” they called it, evidence of God’s goodness. When your family is formed by divine will, who are you to question it? To wonder about the family you never knew?