The reason I believe William Barr’s nomination should be withdrawn has little to do with his experience. As attorney general for President George H.W. Bush, he has long been well-respected within the legal community. But the nominee for our nation’s highest law enforcement position must be measured by more than his résumé.
Nor is this a question of politics — which party can “win” Barr’s confirmation fight — but rather a question of character and fidelity to the Constitution. Will Mr. Barr rise to the defining challenge for an attorney general in the Trump era and defend the rule of law?
Based on his actions in the months before his nomination, I believe the answer is no.
Last June, Mr. Barr wrote a secret, unsolicited memo attacking special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice by the president, which Mr. Barr then passed to administration officials.
In November, President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions after months of public abuse over the Mueller investigation. For a temporary replacement, he chose Matt Whitaker, whose primary qualification appears to be an op-ed he wrote decrying the scope of the Mueller probe.
With Mr. Barr’s nomination, it has become clear that the president’s sole concern is choosing a new attorney general who will shield him from the special counsel’s investigation. And Mr. Barr’s memo looks much more like a job application.
Special counsel Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s attack on our democracy has led to numerous indictments and convictions, including that of the president’s own campaign chairman. It must continue free from political interference until it gets to the truth.
In the meantime, our country deserves better than an attorney general who auditioned for the job by attacking that investigation. Under our constitutional system, no one is above the law, not even the president. We need an attorney general willing to vigorously defend this principle.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is vice chair of the Intelligence Committee.
Blavity Op-ed: Black Americans Were Russia's Top Target For Voter Suppression In 2016. Here Are 3 Ways To Ensure It Doesn't Happen Again.
Jan 09 2019
Black Americans Were Russia's Top Target For Voter Suppression In 2016. Here Are 3 Ways To Ensure It Doesn't Happen Again.
by Senator Mark R. Warner
In the wake of the 2018 election, our country is finally having an overdue conversation about voter suppression. It takes many forms — discriminatory voter ID laws, shady voter roll purges and racially gerrymandered electoral maps, just to name a few.
But over the past two years, we have learned of yet another threat to voters, and Black Americans in particular — this one from beyond our borders. In 2016, Russia attacked our democracy using cyber-attacks and a massive disinformation campaign via social media.
As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I’ve helped lead the investigation into Russian election interference efforts. Perhaps the most disturbing detail we’ve uncovered in our investigation thus far is that Russians specifically targeted the Black community to sow division and suppress voter turnout.
But in recent reports commissioned by our committee, researchers found that Russia’s efforts to target Black Americans were much more sophisticated and systematic than previously known.
In fact, we now know that the Black community was the top target of the Kremlin’s misinformation campaign. Russia employed an army of paid internet trolls who posed as Black Americans on 30 Facebook pages, with over 1.1 million total followers.
Our investigation found a troubling pattern of Russian operatives mimicking legitimate online organizing efforts taking place in communities of color. Russian-backed Facebook posts exploited the Black Lives Matter movement and pitted Americans against each other on issues including race, religion and gun violence. They attempted to build online relationships with legitimate Black media figures and outlets, and even tried to recruit unwitting Americans as Russian intelligence assets.
Using ads as well as organic content, they built their social media followings around political issues related to racial justice, as well as non-political issues like supporting Black-owned businesses.
But as the election approached, these accounts began to change their message. According to the reports, they started posting content pushing “several varieties of voter suppression narratives.” By the end, they were even posting memes encouraging “African Americans for Hillary” to stay home and “vote by text.”
Unfortunately, these racist efforts are not a new strategy for the Russians. During the Cold War, the KGB tried to spread "fake news" smearing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Russian intelligence officers were responsible for concocting the rumor that the AIDS virus was developed by the CIA to target non-whites.
But what’s different today is that social media makes it much easier to start and spread misinformation on a scale that the Soviets could never have dreamed of.
In that way, social media is truly a double-edged sword — the same online tools that in many ways gave rise to important movements like Black Lives Matter were also used by Russia to carry out information operations against Black Americans.
Defending against our adversaries’ attempts to exploit racial tensions via social media is an issue both of justice and national security. And it will take all of us — the federal government, platform companies like Facebook and Google, and the American people united together — to combat this threat.
Here are three steps we can take right now:
1. End domestic voter suppression and address injustices at home: The truth is, Russia’s racist propaganda efforts have long attempted to exploit real injustices and racial divisions here in the United States, and 2016 was no exception. So long as Black Americans’ civil rights are under threat from politicians here in the United States, Russia will seek to exploit that to its advantage. In this sense, making real progress on issues like voting rights, economic fairness, and criminal justice reform is not only the right thing to do — it is essential to our national security.
2. Combat social media misinformation and disinformation: Social media companies should work with Congress to develop common-sense regulations protecting users from foreign adversaries and other bad actors. I’ve put forward a number of proposals as a starting point. For example, I think folks have a right to know if an account they’re interacting with is a bot, or if someone posing online as Mark from Virginia is actually Boris from St. Petersburg.
3. Stand up to foreign cyberaggression abroad: We need to aggressively deter and respond to cyberattacks and information operations carried out by Russia and other adversaries. To that end, we should clearly articulate a society-wide cyber doctrine and be willing to defend ourselves in cyberspace. When foreign adversaries attack our democracy and our fellow Americans, there must be consequences.
Finally, we must deny Russia and other adversaries what they most desire — a further fracturing of our society and our democracy. At the end of the day, the best way to stand up to this cynical, disgusting attempt to undermine our democracy and suppress your vote is to continue making your voice heard at the ballot box and in the community.
This editorial was originally published in The Virginian-Pilot on 12/18/2018
MEMBERS OF Congress, other government leaders and the private sector should heed Virginia Sen. Mark Warner’s call for a major overhaul of the nation’s approach to cyber security.
The technology that pervades our lives on almost every level is dangerously vulnerable to hackers, and neither the government nor the private sector is making much progress toward protecting sensitive and private information.
Cyber security seems to be like the old saying about the weather — everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.
In recent years, we’ve seen a rash of data breaches resulting in identity theft and fraudulent charges on credit cards. In 2013, a data breach at Target stores exposed 41 million customer payment cards. More recently, data breaches have exposed the personal data of millions of customers of the Marriott hotel chain and millions of people whose information was on file with Equifax, the giant credit-reporting company. The list of breaches goes on, with many smaller-scale security lapses causing problems for people but not making headlines.
Then there are the hacking attacks on social media, which range from mildly annoying to downright sinister, such as the Russian efforts to spread false information during our 2016 presidential campaign.
Even more alarming are the threats to national security, including the potential for cyber attacks on critical defense systems. The United States’ heavy use of technology and the Internet means it has highly sophisticated tools, but it also means it is especially vulnerable to cyber attacks. As home to some of the nation’s most important military installations, Hampton Roads and other areas of Virginia have a special interest in beefing up security.
Warner has good reason to be concerned, not only because he represents Virginia, but also as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. With U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the committee chairman, he’s leading the Senate’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
In a recent speech, Warner pointed out that despite lots of committee meetings and other talk, the government has failed to come up with a strong, workable plan to defend the country against cyber attacks and efforts to spread disinformation.
Among other measures, he called for more investment in cyber security at the Pentagon. He also criticized the Trump administration for cuts to cyber offices at the White House and the State Department.
Departing from the conventional governmental wisdom, Warner called for outlining predetermined responses to cyber attacks mounted by other nations, such as sanctions and even military action in extreme cases.
There will be differences of opinion and room for debate, but Warner reminds us that every day without action is another day at risk.
Meanwhile, a new report in the House of Representatives suggests interest in cyber security there as well, even as it makes clear some of the major obstacles.
The investigations panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which tackled the problem after the data breach at Target five years ago, issued a report with suggestions for the Democratic majority that will take over next year. The fact that the committee has been working since 2013 with few results speaks volumes.
The report warns that making changes will be difficult because so much of the Internet is owned by the private sector, but any successful approach must include government leadership. So far, government and industry have shied away from regulations that would require better cyber security in private business.
The report suggests some strategies, such as creating incentives to encourage consumers to abandon aged, insecure technology more quickly. That’s a real problem when expensive devices are rapidly outdated.
The House committee talked about coming up with a “holistic” approach to cyber security.
It should be clear to everyone that we’re all in this together — private citizens, tech companies, social media, government, the military. We’re all vulnerable to annoying hackers and more sinister cyber attacks, and we all need better defenses.
It makes sense that government should play a leading role in developing that strong defense. It’s time to move beyond endless talking and do something about cyber security.
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.”
Dec 07 2018
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
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.
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 I 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.