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This Editorial was originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 12/18/2018

According to a news story in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, “Chinese hackers are breaching Navy contractors to steal everything from ship-maintenance data to missile plans, officials and experts said, triggering a top-to-bottom review of cyber vulnerabilities.” While the entire Department of Defense has had its share of cyber vulnerabilities, the sea service seems to be having an especially egregious time with security breaches by its contractors. The news story says that “victims have included large contractors as well as small ones, some of which are seen as lacking the resources to invest in securing their networks.”

This is completely unacceptable. Last week, Sen. Mark Warner released “A New Doctrine for Cyberwarfare & Information Operations.” In it, he noted several notorious American intelligence failures of late and the urgency with which we need to develop a sound U.S. cyber doctrine. Warner said he believes “we have entered a new era of nation-state conflict: one in which a nation projects strength less through traditional military hardware, and more through cyber and information warfare.”

The senator is right. The entire nation, but especially our security, defense, and intelligence agencies, need to get deadly serious about cyber security. According to the consultancy firm Willis Tower Watson, 90 percent of all cyber claims stem from either human negligence, error, or malicious intent. We need to start holding people and organizations accountable when a security breach is caused by carelessness, ineptitude, or failure to install regular maintenance updates.

As for military contractors — if they can’t guarantee cybersecurity, they should not be granted a contract. If small contractors don’t have the resources to protect their networks, they shouldn’t be bidding for jobs. Chinese hackers are stealing us blind as it is; we don’t need to leave the front door wide open for them.

We have gotten so used to hyperpartisan sniping and dull-witted sound bites that when you finally hear one — two, even! — politicians demonstrate a granular grasp of the issues, pragmatism and farsightedness, it’s both surprising and invigorating. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce got a dose of grown-up governance on Thursday morning at a round table with Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

Before the event I asked Kaine about the prospects for end-of-year legislation. “I think criminal justice prospects are high. ... The budget issue is a challenge, it really is.” Congress laid out two options, he said — $1.6 billion in border security funding (up from the $1.3 billion last year that the administration could not spend entirely) or pass everything else (there are six other, noncontroversial appropriations bills) and keep talking for two months. (Warner cracked, “I’m still waiting for the check from Mexico.”)

On the Yemen issue he said, “We are going to have a strong vote in the Senate. ... [It] sends two very important messages — that we are starting to pull back to ourselves the initiation of war ... and to the Saudis that they aren’t going to be able to walk around on Capitol Hill as if they have a free pass.” Interestingly, he noted that as his “last act of public service,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) “squirreled away” a provision in the newly passed farm bill that would make it unnecessary for the House to vote on whatever the Senate passes on Saudi Arabia.

Kaine and Warner were both enthusiastic about issues that don’t necessarily get headlines. Warner spoke passionately about the need to improve investment in “human capital” — be it by tax changes, accounting changes or changes in education policy. He said that we need to think much more “radically" in bolstering workforce capital. Kaine, who will be working on a new higher education funding bill next year, emphasized the need to promote alternatives to four-year colleges. (He noted that the labor shortage is so acute that employers are looking to take workers still under supervision in a drug rehabilitation program)

Both Democrats were enthusiastic about the new Amazon headquarters in Arlington, which they envisioned will help attract other high-tech businesses and retain millennials in the region. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Post.) Warner said that “this is going to be a game changer” for the region and the state as a whole, and he praised the decision to split the headquarters in two (the other location will be in New York City). “It makes it more palatable,” he said in reference to the challenges of integrating 25,000 new employees in Northern Virginia. Kaine said that a regional housing authority is needed to assure continued access to affordable housing and suggested that some Amazon partners and contractors could be located “downstate,” a nod to areas that have been economically left behind.

The senators ticked through the nitty-gritty of improved governance: reducing the backlog of security clearances which reached 700,000 at one point; investing in cybersecurity to push back when we are attacked; buying phones and computer equipment with better security; moving forward on climate change (Warner pointed out if they call it something else — “sea-level rise” — Republicans are more inclined to go along); fine-tuning Dodd-Frank; and getting federal priority to refurbish the Memorial Bridge. The two former governors showed their wonkiness, but also a recognition that these kinds of issues cumulatively make a big difference in livelihood and quality of life.

Warner called President Trump’s previous infrastructure plan “a scam extraordinaire,” since it actually took more money out of the federal highway trust fund than it put in. He said, “We have to put up new federal funding. We cannot simply wish money out of the sky.” Kaine was especially optimistic about the prospects for a bill, which could include broadband, noting that “there is no more natural connection between the president, who is a builder, and the Congress” than on infrastructure. He said that if Trump wanted to get something done, this would be the topic.

It was refreshing to hear two lawmakers praise free trade — while also acknowledging the need to help those displaced by trade and automation. On the new NAFTA, Kaine warned Trump not to “pull the plug” on the existing deal as a means of pressuring the Senate to pass the new deal. He said that it would be “idiotic” for Trump to try bullying the Senate. “We’re the Article I branch. We don’t play Mother May I.” Warner criticized Trump for creating a crisis in trade that has frayed relations with allies. He also expressed concern that having created a tariff war with China, he will settle for increased purchases of U.S. agricultural products but “give away the store” on issues such as intellectual property.

Warner was blunt about the impact of the tax code, asserting that it was a missed opportunity to use revenue for investment in human capital and infrastructure. He also said that thanks to the debt it rang up, it depleted “most of the tools in our toolkit” should a recession come along.

A Senate of 100 Tim Kaines and Mark Warners would be fully capable of tackling some complex problems. Yet what becomes apparent in listening to some of the most dedicated legislators is that our biggest problem is not trade or China or any other external challenge, but the hyperpartisan know-nothingism of many of their colleagues. Unless we start electing more serious problems, none of our policy challenges can be fixed.

By Joseph Marks

The U.S. government has failed for decades to mount a workable defense against foreign cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns and must shift tactics or risk losing this century’s major battles, Sen. Mark R. Warner said in a cyber-policy speech Friday.

That shift should include greater investments in military cybertechnology, more funding for cybersecurity research and development and a reinvigorated process of building international cyber norms with allies and punishing nations that violate them, Warner (D-Va.) said during a speech at the Center for a New American Security think tank.

One new global rule the United States could advocate would be an agreement that nations will not hack one another’s private companies, he said.

Warner, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, attributed U.S. cyberdefense failures to numerous causes, including underinvestment at the State and Defense departments, convoluted oversight by overlapping congressional committees and market incentives that do not reward companies for investing in cyber protections.

He also called out Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies, saying they are not doing enough to secure their platforms against malign influence operations such as the Russian campaign that spread disinformation in advance of the 2016 election.

Warner, a former telecommunications investment executive, is leading the Senate’s investigation into Russia’s influence campaign, along with Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

The government’s underinvestment in cybersecurity has been partly driven by a naive belief that the U.S. model of a free and open Internet would naturally beat out Russian and Chinese models, which view the Internet as a place for commerce but also for censorship and disinformation operations, Warner said.

“In fact, China has been wildly successful at harnessing the economic benefits of the Internet in the absence of political freedom,” Warner said, adding that “today, China’s cyber and censorship infrastructure is the envy of authoritarian regimes around the world.”

Warner criticized a lack of “presidential leadership” on cybersecurity and faulted the Trump administration for downsizing cyber offices at the White House and State Department.

He also pointed to longer-term lapses, such as a failure to adequately protect major Pentagon weapons systems from cyberattacks.

Warner broke from typical government practice by urging the government to outline predetermined responses for nation-backed cyberattacks based on the perpetrator, the target and the severity of the attack.

Those responses could range from indictments and economic sanctions to retaliatory cyber-strikes and conventional military operations.

U.S. officials have typically argued that it would be counterproductive to predetermine responses to a cyberattack because that would limit the government’s flexibility and invite adversaries to walk up to a point that would invite retaliation but not cross it.

Warner acknowledged, however, that it will not be easy to halt Russia’s digital assaults and that the United States’ extreme reliance on Internet-connected technology would make it more vulnerable in an escalating tit-for-tat cyber-conflict with its former Cold War adversary.

“If a cyberattack shuts down Moscow for 24 hours with no power, that’s a problem,” he said. “But if someone were to shut down New York for 24 hours with no power — that would be a global crisis.”

WASHINGTON – On Friday, December 7, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-founder of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, delivered a major policy speech at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) on the need for a U.S. cyber doctrine. 

Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, relying on a hybrid strategy of conventional cyber-theft, weaponized leaks, and wide-scale social media disinformation, marked a turning point in how we understand the threat landscape. And these active measures have continued well past the 2016 election, illustrating the pressing need for the United States to develop a clear and explicit plan for responding to any future attacks. In his remarks, Sen. Warner called for a “whole-of-society” doctrine to respond to the cyber and misinformation threats facing our nation.

Watch the Speech

Listen to the Speech (via Lawfare)

Read the Speech

2018.12.07 CNAS Warner Cyber Doctrine Speech as-Prepared by MarkWarner on Scribd

This op-ed appeared in the Washington Post on October 2, 2018

 

I keep coming back to April 17, 2013.

That was the day I voted for legislation that would finally require a criminal-background check for all firearm purchases.

It was also the day I voted against legislation banning military-style assault weapons. While I was far from the deciding vote, I have nevertheless wrestled with that “no” vote ever since.

At the time, the Senate was voting on several gun-violence-prevention proposals, trying to find a bill that could get 60 votes. To me, it was clear that strengthening the background-check system would be the single most effective way to begin to stem the tide of gun violence in the United States.

However, every proposal the Senate voted on that day fell short. Congress, in what has become a sad pattern of dysfunction, failed to act.

After the Parkland shooting, Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault-style firearms. CEO Edward Stack explains how it was “the right thing” to do. 

In the years since the Senate last had a meaningful debate about gun-violence legislation, we’ve seen assault rifles and high-capacity magazines repeatedly used in mass shootings, with ever-higher body counts: Forty-nine murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Fifty-eight killed and 422 wounded by gunfire in Las Vegas, one year ago Monday.

We’ve seen the gun lobby close its eyes to the fact that assault rifles were the weapon of choice for the mass shooters at Parkland, Fla., and at Sandy Hook Elementary School — and to the reality that these weapons can kill with an efficiency that shotguns and handguns, like the ones I own, simply cannot match.

Though I remain convinced that strengthening our background-check system is critical, I also believe we must do more to end mass shootings. So today am signing on as a sponsor of the assault weapons ban.

I do this as a gun owner and a proud supporter of the Second Amendment. Before coming to the Senate, I served as governor of Virginia, a state with a long tradition of gun ownership. During my time in office, I signed into law a number of reasonable bipartisan bills solidifying the rights of law-abiding gun owners to purchase and carry firearms for sport and self-defense.

At the time, the National Rifle Association described me as a “valuable ally for gun owners and sportsmen.” While the NRA may have moved toward the extreme in the years since, I still believe in the Second Amendment. But like other parts of our Constitution, the Second Amendment isn’t absolute. For example, the law has long held that certain guns such as fully automatic rifles and accessories such as suppressors fall into a class of weapons requiring stricter oversight and regulation than your everyday hunting rifle.

Unfortunately, these shades of gray needed for good policymaking have given way to the black and white of polarized political warfare that’s increasingly fueled by special-interest money.

Still, I’m hopeful we can break this stalemate, disarming would-be mass shooters while still respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

Restricting the sale of assault weapons is one such starting point. No doubt, there will need to be revisions and compromises before this bill becomes law.

But let’s also recognize that the features and tactical accessories that define assault weapons under this legislation were designed for a specific purpose — to give soldiers an advantage over the enemy, not to mow down students in school hallways.

We should acknowledge that while some will object to reasonable magazine-size limits, they would also force an active shooter to reload more often, buying law enforcement and potential shooting victims valuable seconds that could prove lifesaving.

And let’s agree that modifications such as binary triggers and bump stocks, which skirt the law to effectively turn semiautomatic rifles into fully automatic weapons, should never have been on the streets in the first place.

These are the core ideas behind the assault weapons ban. Some may worry that the technical challenges of defining an assault weapon may result in a law that’s either toothless or overly restrictive of gun rights. Frankly, I share those concerns, but it’s time to stop talking about the problem and do something about it.

We have cultural divisions that must be bridged, but we should not allow these differences to become excuses for inaction. No American wants criminals, terrorists or dangerously ill teenagers to get their hands on a weapon capable of so much destruction.

There is room for common ground here, and I believe it is this: Americans of all backgrounds can and should refuse to accept periodic mass shootings as the new normal, and we should demand that our nation’s leaders finally take action.

I plan to be part of the solution.

 

Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from Virginia.

This email was sent to Virginians in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia on September 13, 2018. If you did not receive it and would like to receive updates from Senator Warner, you can sign up here 

 

Dear Friend,

By now you’ve probably heard that Hurricane Florence is likely to bring heavy rain to the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia over the coming weekend. The truth is, extreme weather can be just as devastating inland as it is on the coast, and so I’m reaching out to make sure you’ve got the information you need to stay safe during this hurricane.

While it appears that Virginia’s coast will be spared a direct hit from Hurricane Florence, heavy rains capable of causing flooding will impact portions of Southwest Virginia over the next two to five days.  Significant rainfall will cause creeks and streams to overflow.  Homes and businesses in low-lying areas will experience flooding.  Roads and bridges could be washed out, and emergency services will have difficulty reaching some areas. 

The time to prepare for this is now.  The Virginia Department of Emergency Management encourages everyone to remain vigilant, keep informed about the weather conditions, and if you encounter flooded roads or bridges to turn around and not drive through the deep water.  One of the most important steps individuals in impacted regions can take is to follow the guidance provided by local authorities. 

Additionally, FEMA recommends taking the following preparedness actions:

  • Stay tuned to local TV and radio stations for instructions and information. 
  • Prepare a disaster kit for your home: Stock up on non-perishable food and water to sustain you and your family for up to three days or longer. Ensure you have important papers (e.g. insurance, identification), first aid kit, a supply of prescription medicines and other specialty items in your preparedness kit. In addition, plan to have an emergency kit for your car in case you need to evacuate. While creating a disaster kit, pet owners should remember to pack the necessary items for their pets. For a detailed checklist of suggested emergency supplies, visit the VDEM website.
  • Create an emergency plan: Know what to do if you have to evacuate. Make sure you know how to contact members of your family and have an emergency contact number for someone out of state that knows where you are in the event of an emergency.
  • Be informed: Know evacuation routes and listen to local authorities when asked to evacuate. Evacuation route information is available on the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Whether you live in a coastal community or inland, speak with your insurance agent now about flood insurance and review your homeowner’s policy. Every state is at risk for flooding and homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood insurance is a cost-effective way to financially prepare for floods. To learn more about your risk and flood insurance, visit www.floodsmart.gov
  • If power is out, use flashlights, not candles. Remember – carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Do not bring generators into the house. Don’t use camp stoves and lanterns without ventilation. Never use stoves for heating. Any of these can cause deadly buildup of carbon monoxide. If using a space or kerosene heater, practice proper safety procedures. Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed as long as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
  • Make sure you know where your home’s safe room is located. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website details what a safe room should look like.
  • Keep your automobile fully fueled; if electric power is cut off, gas stations may not be able to operate pumps for several days.
  • Know how to shut off utilities. Know how your water heating and air-conditioning systems work and where pilot lights are located if you have natural gas appliances. If you have any questions, contact your local utility company.
  • Gather your personal documents - insurance policy information, emergency contact information, and any other vital documents – and have them somewhere they can be easily located and ready to take with you should you have to evacuate your home.
  • Updates on the hurricane and its effects on Virginia are available through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s websiteFacebook, and Twitter feed.

     

Here’s something I read in the Roanoke Times today that’s a good reminder of what we’re up against:

“So how much rain will we get? Probably not the 15 to 30 inches across the entire region like you may have seen on one of those colorful maps – but it only took 6.6 inches in a day, after several prior days of intermittent rain, to trigger the mighty Flood of 1985, still the benchmark for massive inundation in the Roanoke Valley.”

I hope Virginia is spared the worst of this storm, but we’ve got to be ready for anything. I encourage you to spread the word by sharing this email with your friends and family. By sharing this information with as many people as possible, you will help ensure people are prepared for the flooding that could result from the heavy rain that is predicted for Southwest Virginia and the Roanoke Valley.

As always, my office is here to help. If there’s an issue that’s important to you or a question you’d like to ask, I invite you to send me an email and follow my work in the Senate on Facebook and Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Mark Warner

This editorial originally appeared in the Virginian-Pilot on September 9, 2018.

AMERICA’S NATIONAL PARKS and monuments are among this country’s greatest treasures, ranging from the majestic Grand Canyon to the more solemn sites of historic battles. These federally protected sites have been preserved to ensure that they remain accessible to millions of visitors each year, as well as for future generations to appreciate.

But keeping these sites in good shape requires adequate funding, and that money has been in short supply in recent years. The National Park Service estimates that it had a backlog in 2017 of more than $11.5 billion in needed repairs and deferred maintenance at sites across the country, with about $1 billion of that amount needed for sites in Virginia.

At a time when the nation is adding more than $1 trillion per year to its federal deficit, despite a booming economy, any efforts to increase federal spending without a dedicated source of funding demand scrutiny. But the National Park Service is an unfortunate victim of a federal budget battered by unrestrained spending in other areas and irresponsible tax cuts.

Saving money by deferring maintenance and avoiding repairs can be done for while, but it’s not a good — or cost-effective — way to manage property, whether it’s a home or a national park. The repairs ultimately must be made, and delaying them often leads to higher costs and more damage.

The $11.5 billion in needs for the National Park Service is bound to grow unless Congress finds a solution soon. In Virginia, parks need repairs to roads, buildings and bridges, in addition to work on trails, monuments, exhibits and other features.

As Bill Bartel reported recently in The Pilot, more than $420 million of the money needed in Virginia would go to The Colonial National Historical Park, which includes Historic Jamestowne and the Yorktown Battlefield. The majority of the money would be used for roads and bridges.

Nearly 20 other national parks, sites, monuments or battlefields in Virginia are on the list to receive funding, including Fort Monroe, which is seeking $2.3 million to pay for deferred maintenance projects.

“Identifying repairs needed at national park sites in Virginia brings home that we must make it a priority to secure reliable funding to preserve these national treasures in our own back yard,” said Lynn Davis of the Virginia Association for Parks.

The good news is that U.S. senators and representatives have filed bills that would address the backlog of problems. Congress has yet to act on the proposals, but they have support among both Democrats and Republicans.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, has joined Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine in co-sponsoring the Restore Our Parks Act, which would allocate revenue collected from energy production to pay for the work.

“The longer we wait to address the crumbling infrastructure in our national parks, the worse the problem gets,” Warner said.

If the Senate approves the plan, the House and President Donald Trump would have to sign off as well. But Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has endorsed the need for more funding, and this could be a rare opportunity for both sides to support legislation for the common good of the country. Adequate funding for national parks is not a partisan issue, nor should it ever become one.

Americans are justifiably proud of their national parks and historic sites, as shown by the number of visitors who seek them out each year. These sites should be well-maintained for their own protection and preservation, and to ensure that visitors can experience them in all their glory.

Opening Statement of Sen. Mark Warner

Vice Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee

Open Hearing on Foreign Influence Operations’ Use of Social Media Platforms

September 5, 2018

 

LIVESTREAM: https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/hearings/open-hearing-foreign-influence-operations%E2%80%99-use-social-media-platforms

 

***Read Sen. Warner’s white paper on social media***

 

WASHINGTON — Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, will participate in an open hearing with Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and Jack Dorsey, Chief Executive Officer of Twitter Inc., on ways they are working to ensure their platforms are ready – or not—to tackle foreign influence operations ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. After Russia’s unprecedented attack on our elections, Sen. Warner will have the opportunity to hear directly from Facebook and Twitter on ways Congress can better adapt our laws with the changing nature of technology as outlined in his social media white paper

In October, Sen. Warner – along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John McCain (R-AZ) – introduced the Honest Ads Actto help prevent foreign interference in elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. In July, Sen. Warner released a set of policy proposals to spark a long overdue discussion on ways to rein in big tech and protect users on social media against misinformation and disinformation campaigns.

 

Below are Vice Chairman Warner’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery:

 

As the Chairman has pointed out, today is an important public discussion.  I’m pleased that both Facebook and Twitter have sent their company’s top leadership to address some of these critical public policy challenges today.  I look forward to a constructive engagement.  

 

I’m deeply disappointed that Google – one of the most influential digital platforms in the world – chose not to send its own top corporate leadership to engage this committee. 

 

I know our members have a series of difficult questions about structural vulnerabilities on a number of Google’s platforms that we will need answered.  From Google Search, which continues to have problems surfacing absurd conspiracies….To YouTube, where Russian-backed disinformation agents promoted hundreds of divisive videos….To Gmail, where state-sponsored operatives attempt countless hacking attempts, Google has an immense responsibility in this space.  Given its size and influence, I would have thought the leadership at Google would want to demonstrate how seriously it takes these challenges and to lead this important public discussion.

 

For the two companies that have chosen to constructively engage today and to publicly answer some of these difficult questions, thank you. 

 

It would be an understatement to say that much has changed in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. campaign.  With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that serious mistakes were made by both Facebook and Twitter.  You, like the U.S. government, were caught flat-footed by the brazen attacks on our election.  Even after the election, you were reluctant to admit there was a problem. 

 

It was the pressure that was brought to bear by this Committee that led Facebook, Twitter, and Google to uncover the malicious activities of the Russian-backed Internet Research Agency on their platforms.

 

Each of you have come a long way with respect to recognizing the threat.  We have seen important action by your companies to make political advertising more transparent by complying with the terms Senator Klobuchar and I put forward in the Honest Ads Act.  In addition, since last September, you have identified and removed some bad actors from your platforms.  

 

The bad news, I’m afraid, is that there is a lot of work still to do.  And I’m skeptical that, ultimately, you’ll be able to truly address this challenge on your own.  Congress is going to have to take action here.   

 

First, on the disinformation front: Russia has not stopped.  Russian-linked information warfare exists today on your platforms.  Just recently, we saw the two of you act to take down suspected Russian operations.  Microsoft also uncovered Russian attempts to hack political organizations and potentially several political campaigns.  The Russians also continue to infiltrate and manipulate American social media to hijack the national conversation. 

 

You’ve gotten better, and I’m pleased to see you’ve begun to take action, but the Russians are getting better as well.  They have become harder to track.  Worse, now that the Russian playbook is out there, other adversaries, like Iran, have joined the fray.  

 

But foreign-backed disinformation campaigns represent just a fraction of the challenge before you.  In the same way that bots, trolls, fake pages, and algorithm-gaming can be used to spread fake news, these same tools can be used to assist financial stock-pumping fraud, to create filter bubbles and alternative realities, to incite ethnic and racial violence, and countless other misuses.  Imagine the damage to markets if forged communications from the Fed Chairman were leaked online.  

 

Or, consider the price of a Fortune 500 company’s stock if a dishonest short-seller was able to spread false information about that company’s CEO – or the effects of its products -- rapidly online?    

 

Russian disinformation has revealed a dark underbelly of the entire online ecosystem.  And this threatens to cheapen American discourse, weaken privacy, erode truth, and undermine our democracy on a previously unimagined scale.   

 

Worse still, this is only going to get harder with new advances in technology and artificial intelligence, like deepfakes.  During the 2016 election, the Russians demonstrated how bad actors can effectively marry offensive cyber operations, including hacking, with information operations.  We’re on the cusp of a new generation of exploitation, potentially harnessing hacked personal information to enable tailored and targeted disinformation and social engineering efforts.  That should frighten us all. 

 

As someone who was involved in the tech industry for more than 20 years, I respect what this industry represents. I don’t envy the significant technical and policy challenges you face.  But the size and reach of your platforms demand that we, as policy-makers, do our job, to ensure proper oversight, transparency and protections for American users and for our democratic institutions.

 

The era of the Wild West in social media is coming to an end…Where we go from here is an open question. 

 

These are complicated technological challenges, and Congress has, at times, demonstrated that it still has some homework to do.  I think this Committee has done more than most to understand the threat to our democracy posed by social media.  I want to commend my colleagues on the Committee for tackling this challenge in a bipartisan way.  This is our fourth public hearing on the subject, and we’ve met behind closed doors countless times – with third-party researchers, with government officials, and with each of the platforms.  We’ve done the work, and we are well positioned to continue to lead in this space.  

 

Today’s hearing is not about “gotcha” questions or scoring political points.  Our goal today is to begin to shape actual policy solutions which will help us tackle this challenge. 

 

I’ve put forth a series of ideas that I’d like to get your constructive thoughts on.  For instance: 

 

·         Don’t your users have a right to know when they are interacting with bots on your platform? 

·         Isn’t there a public interest in ensuring more anonymized data is available to researchers and academics to help identify potential problems and misuse? 

·         Why are your terms of service so difficult to find and nearly impossible to read, much less understand?

·         Why shouldn’t we adopt ideas like data portability, data minimization, or first party consent?

·         After witnessing numerous episodes of misuse, what further accountability should there be with respect to the flawed advertising model that you utilize? 

 

These are just some of our ideas.  We’ve received a lot of positive feedback, both from experts and users…  We’ve also been accused of trying to bring about the death of the internet. 

 

I’m anxious to hear your views on our proposals and what suggestions you and your teams can bring to the table on this front.  I’m disappointed Google is not here today to bring their ideas to the table.

 

We have to be able to find smart, thoughtful policy solutions that get us somewhere beyond the status quo, without applying ham-handed, 20th century solutions to 21st century problems. At the same time, we should be mindful to adopt policies that do not simply entrench the existing dominant platforms.  These are not just challenges for our politics or our democracy.  These threats can affect our economy, our financial system, and other parts of our lives.    

 

I’m hopeful that we can get there.  I’m confident in American ingenuity.  And I’m optimistic that this Congress, led by this Committee in a bipartisan fashion, can move this conversation forward.

 

I look forward to our discussion today and thank the witnesses for being here.

 

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate in support of an amendment he introduced to the defense appropriations bill that would prohibit President Trump from abusing the security clearance process to punish his critics. In his speech, Sen. Warner warned against politicizing national security institutions by revoking security clearances solely for political purposes. 

“This is a truly dangerous precedent. For the first time since President Eisenhower created the security clearance process as we know it, the President of the United States is abusing one of our most important national security tools to punish his political opponents,” said Sen. Warner on the Senate floor. “But perhaps even more troubling is the message this President is sending to those currently in government service: Think twice before working on anything that this President doesn’t like. Think twice before you express a political opinion, even in private.”

This week, Sen. Warner offered an amendment to the defense appropriations bill currently under debate on the Senate floor prohibiting the use of federal funds to revoke an individual’s security clearance, except in accordance with Part 147 of title 32, Code of Federal Regulations, and Executive Orders 12968 and 13467 as in effect on August 15, 2018 – the day President Trump revoked John Brennan’s security clearance. Text of the amendment is available here. 

Sen. Warner also noted that this practice was a clear attempt by the Trump Administration to undermine the ongoing criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which has already resulted in 5 guilty pleas and 35 indictments. He urged the Senate to “take a stand” against attempts to punish political speech or to threaten national security professionals by arbitrarily taking away their security clearances.  

“We currently have in place real and prudent guidelines for issuing and revoking clearances, guidelines that are based on national security and not on political considerations. We cannot allow those to be supplanted by crass partisanship or attempts to punish the President’s enemies. We have come too far from the days of Watergate to allow this type of partisan attack against career professionals who have faithfully served our nation with honor and dignity. We should demand better from our President,” said Sen. Warner.

 

Below is the full text of his remarks as prepared for delivery.

 

Mr. President, I rise to offer an amendment that would make sure security clearances are revoked only for valid national security reasons.

Not to change the subject on a bad news day…

Not to threaten career government employees…

And especially not to carry out political retribution.

Mr. President, Virginia is home to tens of thousands of dedicated men and women who serve in our intelligence and defense communities. 

Over the years, as Senator and Vice Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I have met literally thousands of FBI agents, CIA officers, military servicemembers, contractors, and other public servants who hold security clearances.

These men and women work day in and day out, often thanklessly, to keep Americans safe.

And you know what? I have no idea who among them are Democrats or Republicans. 

That’s the way our system is supposed to work.

The federal government grants security clearances only to those individuals who can be trusted with our nation’s secrets.

Applicants go through intense, lengthy background checks, interviews, and even lie detector tests. Not to mention extensive rechecks for suitability every few years.

Only then do we allow them to serve in some of the toughest intelligence and national security jobs.

Mr. President, we ask a great deal of these dedicated professionals. But what we do not ask about are their political views. 

Since the mid-1990s, the Code of Federal Regulations has governed the 13 criteria under which personnel are deemed eligible or ineligible for a security clearance and access to classified information. 

These include allegiance to the United States, foreign influence, financial considerations, and others.

None of these criteria include political speech, nor should they. Our national security is too important to infect with political partisanship.

I believe that more than ever in light of the President’s actions last week — when this President revoked the clearance of Director Brennan and threatened to revoke the clearances of numerous former, and even current, national security professionals. 

These individuals collectively have hundreds of years of honorable service to our country under their belts.  No one can seriously question their fitness or loyalty to this country.

Unfortunately, we all know what this is really about. It’s about politics.

According to media reports, White House officials have discussed how to issue the revocations to distract from bad news stories. I hope those reports are mistaken.

But true or not, we need only to listen to the words of this President to know these efforts are politically motivated.

I’ll admit I missed the widely publicized press event where the White House announced the President’s “enemies list.” But anyone who looks at this list will notice some common factors.

They all served in the previous administration, and in the time since, several have exercised their First Amendment right to criticize the President or his policies.

Many of those on the list have also had some involvement in the investigation into Russia’s assault on our democracy in 2016. And for that, they are now being punished by this President and this White House.

In the President’s own words: “These people led it…so I think it’s something that had to be done.”

This is a truly dangerous precedent. For the first time since President Eisenhower created the security clearance process as we know it, the President of the United States is abusing one of our most important national security tools to punish his political opponents.   

But perhaps even more troubling is the message this President is sending to those currently in government service:

Think twice before working on anything that this President doesn’t like.

Think twice before you express a political opinion, even in private.

The White House broadcast this message loud and clear when it threatened to revoke the clearance of a mid-level employee of the Department of Justice.

Mr. President, this is a clear attempt at intimidating others in the bureaucracy. And if the President is successful in revoking this first wave of clearances, there is no question it will threaten the ongoing Russia investigation — an investigation that has already resulted in 5 guilty pleas and 35 indictments, and just today, the conviction of the President’s campaign manager. 

Unfortunately, the President’s actions don’t just harm the individuals involved—these tactics threaten our national security institutions themselves. 

The Pentagon, the IC, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the rest of our national security structures depend on seasoned career professionals who do not act out of partisan motivations.

Threatening their clearances threatens their livelihoods and their families.

This is a clear attempt at undermining an ongoing and legitimate criminal investigation into what Russia did in 2016. 

And, if successful, the President’s actions threaten to politicize our national security institutions — even more so than he already has.

The President has significant authorities as head of the executive branch. But there is widespread agreement that he should not be able to use these powers to get “payback” against Americans who criticize him. 

We all agree that no President should be able to order the IRS to audit political enemies.

And we all agree that no President should be able to order wiretaps against those who displease him.

We should all agree that a President should not have the power to remove clearances for reasons that have nothing to do with national security – certainly not because an individual exercises his or her right to free speech. 

Mr. President, I ask my colleagues to support the Warner amendment.  I ask the majority leader to make sure this amendment gets a fair vote up or down on the floor of the Senate, because the Senate must take a stand against any attempts to punish political speech or to threaten our national security professionals by arbitrarily taking away their security clearances. 

We currently have in place real and prudent guidelines for issuing and revoking clearances, guidelines that are based on national security and not on political considerations.

We cannot allow those to be supplanted by crass partisanship or attempts to punish the President’s enemies. 

We have come too far from the days of Watergate to allow this type of partisan attack against career professionals who have faithfully served our nation with honor and dignity. 

We should demand better from our President.

Thank you, I yield back. 

 

 

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