The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!, by Glenn

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!, by Glenn

Postby admin » Wed Dec 28, 2016 5:27 am

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds
September 1, 2016

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The Democrats mocked the GOP four years ago for having a Cold War foreign policy. Now it doesn't seem so funny.

Think of it as Mitt Romney’s revenge. When Romney suggested, back during the 2012 election, that Russia was the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, Barack Obama mocked him with a line lifted from Seinfeld, saying “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Well, you wouldn’t know that to listen to Democrats talking today. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been issuing dark warnings of Russian election-tampering. In a letter sent to FBI Director James Comey, Reid warned that the threat of Russian election-tampering is more serious than generally appreciated (it’s like he’s been reading my columns on the subject or something!) and “may include the intent to falsify official election results.”

He’s not wrong. It’s probably too late to move to paper ballots this cycle, but we need to do something about the vulnerability of voting and vote-counting systems to hackers. A foreign hacker wouldn’t need to hack everything — just enough systems in key states or precincts to throw the outcome of an election in doubt, resulting in chaos. (Putin may or may not prefer Trump to Hillary, but he’d probably prefer chaos in American politics to either). We also probably need a plan for what to do if that happens. But Reid’s dark warnings are a poor fit with Obama’s snide mockery just four years ago.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank is worried about a Putin-sponsored "October Surprise” that might swing the election: A dump of emails, or some other sort of leak or hack that might include genuine documents, or possibly fakes:

Perhaps they’ll show that the Clinton Foundation has been funding the Islamic State, or they’ll have Hillary Clinton admitting that she didn’t care about those Americans who died in Benghazi after all. Maybe they’ll show that she really did lose most of her brain function in that fall several years ago and is now relying on Anthony Weiner to make all of her decisions.

Russian “dezinformatsiya” campaigns such as this go back to the Cold War; the Soviet portrayal of AIDS as a CIA plot was a classic case. But this type of cyberwar — email hacking and, now, the altering and release of the stolen documents — is a novel escalation. It’s tempting to wonder how differently the Cold War might have gone had there been cyber-hackers back then.


Of course, it’s not as if there isn’t plenty of bad stuff about Hillary that’s true. So though Milbank may worry — or want you to worry — that any October Surprises about Hillary are just Russian disinformation, she’s vulnerable to this because she violated email security rules in order to bypass the Freedom of Information Act and avoid political scrutiny, and she wanted to avoid scrutiny because she was doing things that couldn’t withstand scrutiny.

And this Russian stuff is a problem in no small part because President Obama — consistent with his Romney-mocking in 2012 — failed to fight Putin’s growing propaganda-and-hacking apparatus over the past several years. This was a mistake, because although the Cold War is over, Russia has always played a major part in Great Power politics around the world, and even though it’s no longer the Soviet Union, it remains — or, at least, aspires to remain — a Great Power. That means that Putin (and probably any other Russian leader) will probe for, and exploit, any vulnerabilities that are offered, whether they’re electronic, economic, or diplomatic.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign is trying to tie Trump to Putin. Back when it was Republicans tying Democrats and Communists to Russia, this was called “McCarthyism.” (Though, in fact, there was nothing imaginary about the presence of Russian agents in America). But now Hillary is suggesting that Trump has ties to Putin — which he does — while ignoring the fact that her own close confidants John and Tony Podesta have close ties themselves, as the Panama Papers revealed.

A healthier political system would have electoral mechanisms that weren’t vulnerable to foreign powers. A healthier political system would choose nominees that don’t have close ties to a foreign power, not to mention — at least in Hillary’s case — potential blackmail problems due to lax email security. It might even choose someone who recognizes that Russia is a serious geopolitical threat, and wants to take appropriate steps to deal with it.

But in the political system that we have, electoral security is a joke, a serious nominee was mocked with a Seinfeld line, and most of the media, and the electorate, thought that was just fine. Now even Democrats are beginning to worry about the consequences.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.
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Re: The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!, by Gl

Postby admin » Wed Dec 28, 2016 5:41 am

Putin for president 2016
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds
July 25, 2016

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Great, we can vote for someone who appears subject to Russian blackmail or someone who already seems to be buddies with them.

Call it the Putin Election if you want, because we have two candidates leading the pack who seem, in one way or another, likely to prove congenial to Vladimir Putin.

On the Democratic side, we have Hillary Clinton, whose secret private-server emails are almost certainly already in the hands of Russian intelligence (probably along with several other nations’ spy services as well).

What that means is Putin can embarrass Hillary — or worse — whenever he wants. We’re getting a small foretaste of that in the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails this weekend. The emails show dirty tricks aimed at Bernie Sanders, including a plan to go after his lack of faith. They also show the DNC and Clinton folks getting awfully chummy with some allegedly professional journalists, and putting pressure on news organizations — and show how staff worried that letting a Florida lawyer with ties to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, whose private island Bill Clinton had visited several times, host a fundraiser might cause trouble.

These have already brought heat to the Clinton campaign, as Bernie supporters lash out at a system that looks rigged. But the real point, I suspect, is to deliver a message: Hillary is vulnerable, and if she crosses Putin she’ll pay. The leaks that are out are allegedly from a hacker calling himself Guccifer 2.0, but given that many suspect this is just a blind for Russian intelligence. And Hillary has some shady Russian deals in her background, too. I’m pretty sure the message is received.

So if you don’t want a president who’s likely to be influenced by Putin, you should vote for Donald Trump, right? Well, the good news is that Putin probably won’t be blackmailing Trump. The bad news is that he might not have to, because Trump has openly admired Putin, and the two appear to be on the same page about many things. Trump has said that he doesn’t think the Baltic States are worth going to war over, expressed dissatisfaction with NATO and suggested that the U.S. shouldn’t get on its high horse (to use an Obama phrase) about other countries’ treatment of dissent, given our problems at home.

So it seems possible, and maybe even likely, that our two main choices in November will be a woman who’s subject to blackmail by the Russians, and a man who generally sympathizes with the Russians. That’s good news for Putin, but probably not such good news for the rest of us.

Of course, Hillary could be harder to blackmail than Putin thinks — it’s hard to blackmail someone who has no shame, and who is used to escaping the consequences of her actions. And the press is, as usual, on Hillary’s side, soft-pedaling the WikiLeaks story while Twitter users accuse the platform of hiding it from the “trending” section.

And Trump, as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has suggested, might change his mind on Putin once he gets the classified intelligence briefings. Much of his pro-Putinism could stem from admiration of a strong, outspoken leader who’s not afraid to stand up for his own country. Perhaps once Trump starts thinking about standing up for his own country, he’ll realize that Putin is generally an adversary.

The other bright spot, if you can call it that, is that neither Clinton nor Trump represents a big change from the current administration. President Obama famously promised Russia “more flexibility” after the 2012 election, and in fact he has done very little to frustrate Putin’s ambitions in Eastern Europe or the Middle East. So there’s that.

I’ve written about our dysfunctional system for choosing candidates for the White House, but this is just more evidence that we need to do better. Hope is not a plan, and when you’re down to hoping that your candidates won’t be as bad as they seem, something is deeply wrong.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.
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Re: The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!, by Gl

Postby admin » Wed Dec 28, 2016 6:19 am

After DNC hack, the case for paper ballots
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds
July 28, 2016

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Are paper ballots really a superior technology to voting machines? Absolutely.

Somebody — probably, though not certainly, Vladimir Putin’s intelligence apparatus — has hacked the Democratic Committee’s email servers and released some of what it found via the Wikileaks site. As Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith notes, this is something new: Although meddling in foreign elections is old stuff for intelligence agencies (including our own), this sort of email release is unprecedented.

As disruptive as the DNC email release has been, there’s room for something much worse: A foreign government could hack voting machines, shut down election computers, or delete or alter voter registration information, turning Election Day into a snarled mess and calling the results into question regardless of who wins.

Worse yet, hackers are already working on this.

Voting systems rely on trust. Voters have to trust that their own vote is recorded and counted accurately; they also have to trust that the overall count is accurate, and that only eligible voters are allowed to vote. (When an ineligible voter casts a vote, it cancels out the vote of a legitimate voter every bit as much as if his or her ballot had simply been shredded.)

The problem is that electronic systems — much less the Internet-based systems that some people are talking about moving to — can’t possibly provide that degree of reliability. They’re too easy to hack, and alterations are too easy to conceal. If the powers-that-be can’t protect confidential emails, or government employees’ security information, then they can’t guarantee the sanctity of voting systems.

My own solution is a back-to-the-future one: In an age of computer hackers and, apparently, hopeless failures in data security, we should switch from computers to a superior technology. In this case, it’s paper ballots.

Are paper ballots really a superior technology to voting machines? Absolutely.

When you vote electronically, the only data recorded is the vote itself. Compare that to a paper ballot where you mark an "X" next to the candidate’s name. When you cast a paper ballot, all sorts of other information is captured along with your vote: The color of ink you used, individual variations in handwriting, even the condition of the paper you’re writing on. Changing that across large numbers of ballots without being obvious is hard, and requires physical access to the ballots; doing it on a computer is a matter of a few keystrokes, and can be done from Minsk or Shanghai.

Paper ballots may seem old-fashioned, but an emphasis on computers just for technology’s sake reminds me of stories about housewives in the 1950s who preferred canned vegetables to fresh ones because canned food seemed more modern. Just because a technology is newer doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.

The only downside of paper ballots is that they take longer to count than voting machine totals. But although cable-news operations like fast returns, that’s hardly worth it when there’s a risk that those returns might be fraudulent.

Voting machines, of course, generate lucrative government contracts for equipment and support that can be awarded to favored companies, while paper ballots only require a printing press. But if we’re really worried about foreign interference in American elections — and the evidence suggests that we ought to be — then we should be willing to make this change.

Worried about foreign hacking? Then you should support paper ballots, an idea whose time has come again. And it’s only three months until November.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter @Instapundit.
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Re: The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!, by Gl

Postby admin » Wed Dec 28, 2016 6:26 am

What if Pearl Harbor happened and nobody noticed?
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds
June 14, 2015

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In cyberwar, the U.S. doesn't have an edge.

Last week, while people were going on about the white woman who posed as black to get an NAACP job, Hillary Clinton's (latest) campaign relaunch and President Obama's trade-bill debacle in the House, a much bigger story slipped by with much less hoopla: the successful seizure of a vast trove of federal personnel records, reportedly by the Chinese.

And then it got worse. "Hackers linked to China have gained access to the sensitive background information submitted by intelligence and military personnel for security clearances, U.S. officials said Friday, describing a cyberbreach of federal records dramatically worse than first acknowledged."

And there are lessons in this debacle, if we are willing to learn them.

Aside from regular federal personnel records, which provide a royal route to blackmail, intimidation and identity theft for present and retired federal workers, the hackers also stole a trove of military and intelligence records that could be even more valuable. The forms stolen were Standard Form 86, in which employees in sensitive positions list their weaknesses: past arrests, bankruptcies, drug and alcohol problems, etc. The 120 plus pages of questions also include civil lawsuits, divorce information, Social Security numbers, and information on friends, roommates, spouses and relatives.

The result? About 14 million current and former federal employees are in a state of collective panic over the loss of their information. Former State Department employee Matthew Palmer was quoted as saying, "Who is in danger? I listed friends on those forms and my family members. … Are some hackers going to start going after them?"

Possibly. The U.S. military, even in its current somewhat shrunken state, remains an irresistible force in conventional warfare. But this trove of information is perfect for "fourth-generation warfare," in which conventional strengths are bypassed in favor of targeted attacks on a stronger nation's weaknesses. With this sort of information, China will find it much easier to recruit agents, blackmail decision-makers and — in the event of a straight-up conflict — strike directly at Americans in the government, all without launching a single missile.

That's why experts are calling this security breach a "debacle" and "potentially devastating." Some are even calling it a "cyber Pearl Harbor."

Perhaps that's a bit strong: Unlike the real Pearl Harbor attack, there are no burning and sunken ships full of American sailors. On the other hand, if the Japanese in 1941 could have kept the U.S. from interfering with their Pacific conquests through subtler means than air-dropped torpedoes, they no doubt would have been happy to do so. And that's the situation that China, with cyberattacks such as this one, is trying to bring about.

What do we do? Well, so far the federal government is offering free identity-theft protection to its employees, but that response is like putting a Band-Aid on a severed limb — so pathetic it's not even cosmetic. This isn't like a broken code, where we can just change things around and be almost as good as new. Once out, this information will remain current for years, and there's no easy or effective way of doing much about that.

But we can learn our lesson, at least. The United States is highly vulnerable to cyberwar, and not very good about defending against it, especially in the lame-and-inept government IT sector, which has not distinguished itself in terms of competence. (Remember HealthCare.gov?)

For the federal government, one lesson is that really important stuff shouldn't be put online at all. Paper documents have their problems, but at least they can't be hacked and stolen en masse.

For the rest of us, the lesson is that we should probably think twice before entrusting the federal government with our own information. Because if the feds can't protect their own sensitive data, on behalf of people who work for the federal government, how good a job are they likely to do on behalf of the rest of us mere citizens?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself.
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Re: The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!, by Gl

Postby admin » Wed Dec 28, 2016 7:55 am

Slouching toward World War III
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds
February 18, 2016

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Abandoning the helm and allowing Putin to have his way, Obama has turned the Cold War clock back.

At the Democratic debate last week, there was a lot of back-and-forth between Bernie and Hillary about Hillary’s relationship with Henry Kissinger. And while I’m not a Kissinger fan in particular, I have to give those old-time Cold Warriors credit: Despite the widespread belief from the 1950s through the 1980s that a nuclear World War III was almost inevitable, they managed to avoid it and to produce an outcome where freedom expanded around the world by the end.

Our current generation of foreign-policy leaders isn’t doing quite as well. In fact, as intelligence expert John Schindler writes in the Observer, we seem to be slouching toward World War III now.

Schindler writes that the Russo-Turkish conflict in Syria looks poised to expand:

"As rebel forces defend Aleppo in Stalingrad fashion, the Syrian military, with Russian help, commences a protracted siege of the city, employing massive firepower, which becomes a humanitarian nightmare of a kind not seen in decades, a tragedy that would dwarf the 1992-95 siege of Sarajevo. However, any Turkish move to lift that siege, even with international imprimatur, would quickly devolve into all-out war. ...

"Many Western insiders think along similar lines. By letting Mr. Putin get away with whatever he likes in Syria, Obama has created a deeply dangerous situation in the region. By abandoning his infamous Syria “redline” in September 2013, the White House in effect outsourced American policy there to Putin, as I warned at the time, and which the Obama administration, powerless to influence terrible events in Syria, is slowly realizing."


A war between Russia and Turkey would put the United States, and Europe, in an uncomfortable position. Since Turkey remains a NATO ally (though a shakier one than in the past), war between Turkey and Russia could easily suck us in. And if Turkey and Russia went to war while NATO stayed on the sidelines, the NATO alliance would be weakened. (Yes, the NATO treaty technically doesn’t obligate us to support Turkey in a war that Turkey starts, but a reliance on such niceties wouldn’t make NATO look stronger).

Of course, this debacle is just one of many problems. As Wess Mitchell and Jakub Grygiel write in The American Interest, "predators" are testing boundaries all over the world: “From eastern Ukraine and the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea, large rivals of the United States are modernizing their military forces, grabbing strategic real estate, and threatening vulnerable U.S. allies. Their goal is not just to assert hegemony over their neighborhoods but to rearrange the global security order as we have known it since the end of the Second World War. ... By degrees, the world is entering the path to war. Not since the 1980s have the conditions been riper for a major international military crisis. Not since the 1930s has the world witnessed the emergence of multiple large, predatory states determined to revise the global order to their advantage — if necessary by force.”

Back during the 2012 presidential debates, Mitt Romney warned of a resurgent Russia. Barack Obama dismissively replied: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back — because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.”

Well, now it looks like we have a new Cold War. And don’t just take my word for it. Ask Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who says that the world has slipped into a “new Cold War.” So, despite President Obama’s snark and Clinton and Sanders’ infighting, the question isn’t about what happened in the 1980s. It’s about whether we’ll do as well in the coming decades. At the moment, things don’t look especially promising.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.
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