At a glance.
- Russia denies hacking Georgia as international condemnation rises.
- US election security remains in question.
- With full re-authorization in doubt, FISA expires next month.
- European police may be considering a continental network of facial recognition databases.
Russia says critics have been duped by a "propaganda campaign" coordinated among Washington, London, and Tbilisi.
The European Union has joined international condemnation of last October’s cyberattack on Georgian websites, according to Eurasiz Review. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell [YOH-zep boh-RELL], the EU’s top diplomat, on Friday said, “Georgia was the victim of a targeted cyber-attack causing damage to their social and economic infrastructure.” Western intelligence services, notably those of the UK and the US, have attributed the influence campaign to Russia’s GRU. Georgia’s government has thanked the EU for the expression of solidarity.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has denied any involvement in the attack, and puts the whole matter down to a coordinated propaganda campaign run from Washington, London, Tbilisi, and an unspecified “elsewhere.” The Ministry goes on to deplore Georgia’s decision to “demonize” Russia, and just when relations between the two peoples were improving, with greater mutual understanding, etc. Few seem convinced.
Nevada caucus over, concerns about US election security abide.
Results from the Nevada Democratic Presidential caucus are now largely complete, with 96% of caucus locations having reported. The results have been disputed, the AP reports, by former South Bend Mayor Buttigieg’s campaign, but Senator Sanders seems the clear winner.
The Senator suggested twice last week (on grounds of a priori probability, that is, I don't know this, but let me tell you it wouldn't surprise me, etc.) that online nastiness apparently emanating from his supporters might well have been the work of Russian bots. The nastiness that prompted the Senator’s speculation about Russian trolling involved an intraparty squabble over the Culinary Workers Union and its decision not to endorse Senator Sanders’ signature Medicare for All proposal. Experts the Daily Beast polled think this unlikely, and see no evidence that it occurred. But we append the usual disclaimers to this discussion: attribution is always difficult, it can also be difficult to distinguish an attack from something that just, well, happened, and self-organized enthusiasts can look a lot like a well-ordered campaign.
Trolling of the kind Senator Sanders discussed would be, of course, a matter of influence operations, if anything. Others continue to raise questions about the degree to which the mechanics of voting in the US could be vulnerable to hacking proper, in the sense of direct alteration of vote counts. The Washington Post’s stable of experts comes down narrowly on the side of worry as opposed to reassurance. Fifty-seven percent of the Post’s Network doubt that US Federal, state, and local election officials will be able to render the 2020 election reasonably secure against manipulation or tampering. A second Post report concludes that ballot-marking machines of the kind set to be used by about twenty-percent of US voters come November are themselves vulnerable to interference. They do produce a paper ballot, but the machine does the production, not the voter. This strikes some as undercutting the very notion of a reliable paper record. The companies that produce the machines and the election officials who've adopted them say the risk of hacking is negligible, but not all are convinced.
US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act renewal faces headwinds.
The New York Times notes that the Justice Department IG's criticism of 2016’s Operation Crossfire Hurricane makes it likely that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will be significantly revised when key provisions expire in mid-March. The Inspector General concluded that the FBI’s requests for wiretaps during Crossfire Hurricane were flawed, and that had the Bureau presented what it knew and ought to have known to the FISA court, it’s unlikely that it would have received the warrants it eventually did. The Wall Street Journal reports that several "senior Administration officials" intend to push for significant revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and other statutory authorities for collecting information relevant to both intelligence and counter-intelligence.
European police agencies reported to be mulling an EU-wide shared network of facial recognition databases.
The Intercept, citing leaked pre-decisional documents, writes that police agencies from ten European nations have called for the establishment of a shared network of facial recognition databases.