Daily Bread for 2.15.18

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of forty-one. Sunrise is 6:50 AM and sunset 5:27 PM, for 10h 36m 54s of daytime. The moon is new. Today is the four hundred sixty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1564, Galileo Galilei is born in Pisa. On this day in 1865, the 12th Wisconsin Light Artillery participates in the Union victory at Congaree Creek outside of Columbia, South Carolina.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ The New York Times editorial board asks Why Does Trump Ignore Top Officials’ Warnings on Russia?:

The phalanx of intelligence chiefs who testified on Capitol Hill delivered a chilling message: Not only did Russia interfere in the 2016 election, it is already meddling in the 2018 election by using a digital strategy to exacerbate the country’s political and social divisions.

No one knows more about the threats to the United States than these six officials, so when they all agree, it would be derelict to ignore their concerns. Yet President Trump continues to refuse to even acknowledge the malevolent Russian role.

It’s particularly striking that four of the men who gave this warning to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday — the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo; the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray; and the Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley — were all appointed by Mr. Trump.

They testified that the president has never asked them to take measures to combat Russian interference and protect democratic processes.

➤ Mike Rogers and Rick Ledgett propose Four steps to fight foreign interference in U.S. elections:

First, the administration should issue a declaration: “The United States views any foreign attempt to influence our election processes through covert or clandestine means as an attack on the fundamental underpinnings of our system of government. We will not tolerate such activity and reserve the right to respond to such activities.”

We need to establish a clear line that delineates unacceptable behavior and puts others on notice that we will act as needed to defend ourselves. The Trump administration might emulate the actions of our allies France and Germany. In 2017, Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s foreign minister at the time, announced prior to its elections that France would not tolerate any Russian or other foreign interference, a stance adopted by now-President Emmanuel Macron. French government agencies also quickly alerted political parties to the threat of Russian hacking during the campaign. In Germany, the government took a strong stance against interference, and companies helped raise awareness of Russian meddling by publicly debunking a Russian disinformation campaign that sought to inflame anti-migrant sentiments.

Second, Congress should pass legislation, such as the bipartisan Secure Elections Act, to provide sufficient resources for evaluating the cybersecurity of our states’ disparate electoral infrastructure and addressing shortfalls. The Department of Homeland Security’s pledge to complete assessments of states’ electoral vulnerabilities by April was a good step. But legislation, particularly with resources attached, can improve upon bureaucratic inefficiencies. Congress should also consider codifying the Obama administration’s designation of election systems as critical infrastructure.

Third, the U.S. government should establish an interagency task force to combat foreign attempts to influence our democratic institutions and processes. This task force would be entirely removed from the ongoing investigations into the 2016 elections; instead, it would focus on preventing future attempts to infiltrate and influence our democracy.

Such a task force should combine U.S. policymaking and intelligence communities, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Commerce, Defense, State and Treasury, as well as relevant intelligence agencies. It should also coordinate with nonpartisan private-sector entities — such as privacy and civil liberty organizations and social media and technology companies — to bring specialized expertise and unique insights. Private companies provide voting machines, aggregate voter data and operate much of the nation’s critical infrastructure. Better coordination among these companies and federal and state governments can only improve security.

Finally, the Trump administration should ensure that the U.S. government has the authorities needed to deter foreign actors engaged in malign influence campaigns and cybe roperations against U.S. elections. Countermeasures would include diplomacy, economic tools such as sanctions, covert action and military action. Many of these authorities already exist, but some need further strengthening or clarification to be used in the context of election security.

(Of their backgrounds, “Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan, served in the House from 2001 to 2015 and was chairman of the Intelligence Committee from 2011 to 2015. Rick Ledgett was deputy director of the National Security Agency from 2014 to 2017. Both are members of the Advisory Council of the Alliance for Securing Democracy.”)

➤ Director of National Intelligence Coats testifies on threats to U.S. elections:

— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 13, 2018

➤ Ben Popken of NBC reports Twitter deleted 200,000 Russian troll tweets. Read them here (“Twitter doesn’t make it easy to track Russian propaganda efforts — this database can help”):

NBC News is publishing its database of more than 200,000 tweets that Twitter has tied to “malicious activity” from Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

These accounts, working in concert as part of large networks, pushed hundreds of thousands of inflammatory tweets, from fictitious tales of Democrats practicing witchcraft to hardline posts from users masquerading as Black Lives Matter activists. Investigators have traced the accounts to a Kremlin-linked propaganda outfit founded in 2013 known as the Internet Research Association (IRA). The organization has been assessed by the U.S. Intelligence Community to be part of a Russian state-run effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential race. And they’re not done.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday.

“The Russians utilize this tool because it’s relatively cheap, it’s low risk, it offers what they perceive as plausible deniability and it’s proven to be effective at sowing division,” he told the annual hearing on worldwide threats. “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen, and other means of influence to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.”

“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” he said.


➤ So, Why Is Caviar So Expensive?: