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.
HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us offers a definitive case for games’ narrative impoverishment.
“Fudge,” I remember saying, only I didn’t say fudge, I said fuck, a word for adults. I was playing The Last of Us, a narrative video game for adults about a zombie apocalypse, and I had just died for what seemed like the thousandth time in the first room with a “clicker,” the game lore’s name for a medium-difficulty enemy. These “infected”—it’s classier not to call them zombies, and this is a classy zombie-combat game, one with a story—had become misshapen thanks to a cordyceps brain infection, which devoured mankind almost overnight. The clicker was ghastlier than others, because it had lived long enough for the infection to fully engulf its formerly human face, fungal fibers enrobing it, teeth jutting out like barbs. An older infected is a more resilient one. In a video game, that translates to a more difficult baddie to beat. It would be too boring to tell you all the things I had tried, but none of them had yet worked. Fuck this fucking game.
The sketch show’s pretaped segments are outshining its live comedy.
The defining quality of Saturday Night Live throughout its staggering 48 years on the air has been its live factor. Where other sketch or variety shows have had the benefit of post-production—namely planning and polish—SNL’s spirit has most often emerged under the pressure of live television. You see it in the little things, like unexpected wardrobe gaffes and uncontrollable laughter; like when the actors in a Disney World–themed “Debbie Downer” sketch labored to deliver their lines in the face of her outrageous observations.
Yet this season, the live sketches are where SNL has struggled most for a spate of reasons: underdeveloped premises, writing that misses the mark, a lack of recurring characters outside of the “Weekend Update” desk, and a relatively new cast still learning to work together. The show’s pretaped segments have shouldered a lot of the heavy lifting, delivering consistently notable comedy and commentary. Last night, SNL’s post-production team—which recently authorized a strike after contract negotiations with its newly formed union stalled—assembled two of the strongest sketches. An announcement from Southwest Airlines sarcastically apologized for canceling more than 16,000 flights during the busy holiday travel season, and a State Farm commercial pursued a delightful twist featuring the fictional company rep Jake from State Farm. These sketches were so fully developed that they highlighted the ways this season’s live sketches have steadily fallen short of that goal line.
What to do about the deadly misfits among us? First, recognize the problem.
Some years ago, I got a call from an analyst at the National Counterterrorism Center. After yet another gruesome mass shooting (this time, it was Dylann Roof’s attack on a Bible-study group at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, that killed nine and wounded one), I had written an article about the young men who perpetrate such crimes. I suggested that an overview of these killers showed them, in general, to be young losers who failed to mature, and whose lives revolved around various grievances, insecurities, and heroic fantasies. I called them “Lost Boys” as a nod to their arrested adolescence.
The NCTC called me because they had a working group on “countering violent extremism.” They had read my article and they, too, were interested in the problem of these otherwise-unremarkable boys and young men who, seemingly out of nowhere, lash out at society in various ways. We think you’re on to something, the analyst told me. He invited me to come down to Washington and discuss it with him and his colleagues.
How the new obesity pills could upend American society
This is Work in Progress, a newsletter by Derek Thompson about work, technology, and how to solve some of America’s biggest problems. Sign up here to get it every week.
About a decade ago, Susan Yanovski, an obesity researcher at the National Institutes of Health, held a symposium to discuss a question that bedeviled her field: Why was it so hard to develop weight-loss drugs that actually worked and didn’t harm the people they were meant to help?
For years, the most popular weight-loss pills had earned their stigma. For example, the drug cocktail known as fen-phen was taken off the market for causing heart disease almost as reliably as it promoted healthy weight loss. The only intervention that seemed to work consistently was bariatric surgery. Doctors sliced into patients’ digestive system to reduce stomach size and slow the absorption of nutrients to stave off feelings of hunger. But these operations were expensive and complicated, and in some cases posed serious risks.
“This is one of the least smelly carcasses,” says Todd Katzner, peering over his lab manager’s shoulder as she slices a bit of flesh from a dead pigeon lying on a steel lab table. Many of the specimens that arrive at this facility in Boise, Idaho, are long dead, and the bodies smell, he says, like “nothing that you can easily describe, other than yuck.”
A wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, a government agency dedicated to environmental science, Katzner watches as his lab manager roots around for the pigeon’s liver and then places a glossy maroon piece of it in a small plastic bag labeled with a biohazard symbol. The pigeon is a demonstration specimen, but samples, including flesh and liver, are ordinarily frozen, cataloged, and stored in freezers. The feathers get tucked in paper envelopes and organized in filing boxes; the rest of the carcass is discarded. When needed for research, the stored samples can be processed and sent to other labs that test for toxicants or conduct genetic analysis.
Oxytocin, often lauded as the “hug hormone,” might not be necessary to induce affection.
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.
Of the dozens of hormones found in the human body, oxytocin might just be the most overrated. Linked to the pleasures of romance, orgasms, philanthropy, and more, the chemical has been endlessly billed as the “hug hormone,” the “moral molecule,” even “the source of love and prosperity.” It has inspired popular books and TED Talks. Scientists and writers have insisted that spritzing it up human nostrils can instill compassion and generosity; online sellers have marketed snake-oil oxytocin concoctions as “Liquid Trust.”
How the whims of one very wealthy man transformed the most famous hotel in Los Angeles
Behind vine-covered walls on a modest hill overlooking Sunset Boulevard sits the decidedly immodest Chateau Marmont. The hotel was inspired by a French Gothic castle and, at 93, it is easily the oldest thing in Los Angeles that’s still considered sexy.
As a born-and-raised New Yorker without a driver’s license, I found the hotel the perfect place to park myself for a day of meetings in the era before Ubers and WeWorks and Soho Houses. I used to go there in the 2000s, back when I was a wedding planner. It was like a celebrity safari; stars would walk by, within arm’s reach. You could “do Los Angeles” without ever needing to move. I never could have afforded a room there, but I knew by reputation that at night it offered entertainment of a different sort: luxury and licentiousness and debauchery, unbounded by any rules.
Because of the sheer prevalence of police brutality in America, public officials have gotten better at managing the shock.
As multiple video recordings of the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis were released to the public on Friday night, the nation prepared for the reaction. Peaceful protests can easily turn into violent ones, especially in a country that is rightly outraged about the ongoing police brutality against Black men. It has become a familiar call and response: Police misconduct leads to more harm in or for the communities that were targeted by the misconduct in the first place.
But as Friday night unfolded, the protests remained peaceful; news reports showed Americans in various cities righteously and nonviolently demanding justice. We have witnessed many peaceful protests in response to police violence before, but there was one noticeable difference this time around: Rollout of the video footage seemed highly choreographed.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development has established a strong correlation between deep relationships and well-being. The question is, how does a person nurture those deep relationships?
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.
Turn your mind for a moment to a friend or family member you cherish but don’t spend as much time with as you would like. This needn’t be your most significant relationship, just someone who makes you feel energized when you’re with them, and whom you’d like to see more regularly.
How often do you see that person? Every day? Once a month? Once a year? Do the math and project how many hours annually you spend with them. Write this number down and hang on to it.