Category Archives: Cybersecurity

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Acts to Strengthen America’s Cybersecurity, ‘Lock Our Digital Doors’

“Anonymous,” Spyscape, NYC. The Biden-Harris Administration has brought a relentless focus to improving the United States’ cyber defenses, building a comprehensive approach to “lock our digital doors” and take aggressive action to strengthen and safeguard our nation’s cybersecurity. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The White House released this fact sheet on how the Biden-Harris Administration is strengthening cybersecurity – particularly important with the rise of cyberwarfare mounted by Russia, China, North Korea and others.

The Biden-Harris Administration has brought a relentless focus to improving the United States’ cyber defenses, building a comprehensive approach to “lock our digital doors” and take aggressive action to strengthen and safeguard our nation’s cybersecurity, including:

  • Improving the cybersecurity of our critical infrastructure.  Much of our Nation’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector.  The Administration has worked closely with key sectors – including transportation, banking, water, and healthcare – to help stakeholders understand cyber threats to critical systems and adopt minimum cybersecurity standards.  This includes the introduction of multiple performance-based directives by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to increase cybersecurity resilience for the pipeline and rail sectors, as well as a measure on cyber requirements for the aviation sector. Through the President’s National Security Memorandum 8 on Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems, we are issuing cybersecurity performance goals that will provide a baseline to drive investment toward the most important security outcomes.  We will continue to work with critical infrastructure owners and operators, sector by sector, to accelerate rapid cybersecurity and resilience improvements and proactive measures.
     
  • Ensuring new infrastructure is smart and secure.  President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is an investment to modernize and strengthen our Nation’s infrastructure.  The Administration is ensuring that these projects, such as expanding the Nation’s network of electric-vehicle charging stations, are built to endure, meeting modern standards of safety and security, which includes cyber protections.  Investments in digital security through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will also bring high-speed internet to underserved parts of the country, bridging the digital divide as well. Also the BIL, the Administration launched a first-of-its-kind cybersecurity grant program specifically for state, local, and territorial (SLT) governments across the country. The State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program will provide $1 billion in funding to SLT partners over four years, with $185 million available for fiscal year 2022, to support SLT efforts to address cyber risk to their information systems and critical infrastructure.
     
  • Strengthening the Federal Government’s cybersecurity requirements, and raising the bar through the purchasing power of government.  Through the President’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, issued in May 2021, President Biden raised the bar for all Federal Government systems by requiring impactful cybersecurity steps, such as multifactor authentication.  The Administration also issued a strategy for Federal zero trust architecture implementation, as well as budget guidance to ensure that Federal agencies align resources to our cybersecurity goals. We are also harnessing the purchasing power of the Federal Government to improve the cybersecurity of products for the first time, by requiring security features in all software purchased by the Federal Government, which improves security for all Americans.
     
  • Countering ransomware attacks to protect Americans online.  In 2021, the Administration established the International Counter-Ransomware Initiative (CRI), bringing together partners from around the globe to address the scourge of ransomware.  The White House will host international partners October 31-November 1 to accelerate and broaden this joint work.  This group has raised collective resilience, engaged the private sector, and disrupted criminal actors and their infrastructure.  The United States has made it harder for criminals to move illicit money, sanction a series of cryptocurrency mixers used regularly by ransomware actors to collect and “clean” their illicit earnings.  A number of cyber criminals have also been successfully extradited to the United States to face justice for these crimes.
     
  • Working with allies and partners to deliver a more secure cyberspace.  In addition to launching the International Counter Ransomware Initiative, the Administration has established cyber dialogues with a breadth of allies and partners to build collective cybersecurity, formulate coordinated response, and develop cyber deterrence.  We are taking this work to our most vital alliances – for example, establishing a new virtual rapid response mechanism at NATO to ensure Allies can effectively and efficiently offer each other support in response to cyber incidents.
     
  • Imposing costs on and strengthening our security against malicious actors. The Biden-Harris Administration has not hesitated to respond forcefully to malicious cyber actors when their actions threaten American or our partner’s interests.  In April of 2021, we sanctioned Russian cyber actors affiliated with the Russian intelligence services in response to the SolarWinds attack.  We worked with allies and partners to attribute a destructive hack of the Viasat system at the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine. 
     
  • Implementing internationally accepted cyber norms.  The Administration is committed to ensuring internationally negotiated norms are implemented to establish cyber “rules of the road.” More recently, we worked with international partners to call out Iran’s counter-normative attack on Albanian government systems and impose costs on Tehran for this act.
     
  • Developing a new label to help Americans know their devices are secure. This month, we will bring together companies, associations and government partners to discuss the development of a label for Internet of Things (IoT) devices so that Americans can easily recognize which devices meet the highest cybersecurity standards to protect against hacking and other cyber vulnerabilities.  By developing and rolling out a common label for products that meet by U.S. Government standards and are tested by vetted and approved entities, we will help American consumers easily identify secure tech to bring into their homes.  We are starting with some of the most common, and often most at-risk, technologies — routers and home cameras — to deliver the most impact, most quickly.
     
  • Building the Nation’s cyber workforce and strengthening cyber education.  The White House hosted a National Cyber Workforce and Education Summit, bringing together leaders from government and from across the cyber community. At the Summit, the Administration announced a 120-Day Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Sprint to help provide skills-based pathways into cyber jobs. With momentum from the Summit, the Administration continues to work with partners throughout society on building our Nation’s cyber workforce, improving skills-based pathways to good-paying cyber jobs, educating Americans so that they have the skills to thrive in our increasingly digital society, and improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in the cyber field.
     
  • Protecting the future – from online commerce to national secrets — by developing quantum-resistant encryption.  We all rely on encryption to help protect our data from compromise or theft by malicious actors.  Advancements in quantum computing threaten that encryption, so this summer the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced four new encryption algorithms that will become part of NIST’s post-quantum cryptographic standard, expected to be finalized in about two years.  These algorithms are the first group of encryption tools that are designed to withstand the assault of a future quantum computer, which could potentially crack the security used to protect privacy in the digital systems we rely on every day, such as online banking and email software.
     
  • Developing our technological edge through the National Quantum Initiative and issuance of National Security Memorandum-10 (NSM-10) on Promoting United States Leadership in Quantum Computing While Mitigating Risks to Vulnerable Cryptographic Systems.  This initiative has more than doubled the United States Government’s research and development (R&D) investment in quantum technology, creating new research centers and workforce development programs across the country. NSM-10 prioritizes U.S. leadership in quantum technologies by advancing R&D efforts, forging critical partnerships, expanding the workforce, and investing in critical infrastructure; will move the Nation to quantum-resistant cryptography; and protects our investments, companies, and intellectual property as this technology develops so that the United States and our allies can benefit from this new field’s advances without being harmed by those who would use it against us.

White House Warns Businesses to Harden Defenses Against Cyber Attack

“My Administration will continue to use every tool to deter, disrupt, and if necessary, respond to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. But the Federal Government can’t defend against this threat alone. Most of America’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and critical infrastructure owners and operators must accelerate efforts to lock their digital doors,” President Biden stated. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc.

The Biden Administration, from its first days, has been warning – and acting – on cybersecurity, when previous administrations just sat back as ransomware and cyberattacks became epidemic and more lethal – threatening water supplies, power grids, even nuclear plants. But the issue of cybersecurity has become elevated and unavoidable because of Russia’s reaction to sanctions for its invasion and war crimes against Ukraine, warranting President Biden and the White House to issue new warnings and mount pre-emptive defenses. (New York  Governor Kathy Hochul already has set up infrastructure to protect New York and cooperate with federal government.)

“This is a critical moment to accelerate our work to improve domestic cybersecurity and bolster our national resilience,” President Biden declared. “  I have previously warned about the potential that Russia could conduct malicious cyber activity against the United States, including as a response to the unprecedented economic costs we’ve imposed on Russia alongside our allies and partners. It’s part of Russia’s playbook. Today, my Administration is reiterating those warnings based on evolving intelligence that the Russian Government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks.

“From day one, my Administration has worked to strengthen our national cyber defenses, mandating extensive cybersecurity measures for the Federal Government and those critical infrastructure sectors where we have authority to do so, and creating innovative public-private partnerships and initiatives to enhance cybersecurity across all our critical infrastructure. Congress has partnered with us on these efforts — we appreciate that Members of Congress worked across the aisle to require companies to report cyber incidents to the United States Government.

“My Administration will continue to use every tool to deter, disrupt, and if necessary, respond to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. But the Federal Government can’t defend against this threat alone. Most of America’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and critical infrastructure owners and operators must accelerate efforts to lock their digital doors. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has been actively working with organizations across critical infrastructure to rapidly share information and mitigation guidance to help protect their systems and networks

“If you have not already done so, I urge our private sector partners to harden your cyber defenses immediately by implementing the best practices we have developed together over the last year. You have the power, the capacity, and the responsibility to strengthen the cybersecurity and resilience of the critical services and technologies on which Americans rely. We need everyone to do their part to meet one of the defining threats of our time — your vigilance and urgency today can prevent or mitigate attacks tomorrow.”

FACT SHEET: Act Now to Protect Against Potential Cyberattacks

The Biden-Harris Administration has warned repeatedly about the potential for Russia to engage in malicious cyber activity against the United States in response to the unprecedented economic sanctions we have imposed.  There is now evolving intelligence that Russia may be exploring options for potential cyberattacks.

The Administration has prioritized strengthening cybersecurity defenses to prepare our Nation for threats since day one. President Biden’s Executive Order is modernizing the Federal Government defenses and improving the security of widely-used technology. The President has launched public-private action plans to shore up the cybersecurity of the electricity, pipeline, and water sectors and has directed Departments and Agencies to use all existing government authorities to mandate new cybersecurity and network defense measures. Internationally, the Administration brought together more than 30 allies and partners to cooperate to detect and disrupt ransomware threats, rallied G7 countries to hold accountable nations who harbor ransomware criminals, and taken steps with partners and allies to publicly attribute malicious activity.

We accelerated our work in November of last year as Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated his aggression ahead of his further invasion of Ukraine with extensive briefings and advisories to U.S. businesses regarding potential threats and cybersecurity protections. The U.S. Government will continue our efforts to provide resources and tools to the private sector, including via CISA’s Shields-Up campaign and we will do everything in our power to defend the Nation and respond to cyberattacks. But the reality is that much of the Nation’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and the private sector must act to protect the critical services on which all Americans rely.

We urge companies to execute the following steps with urgency:

  • Mandate the use of multi-factor authentication on your systems to make it harder for attackers to get onto your system;
     
  • Deploy modern security tools on your computers and devices to continuously look for and mitigate threats;
     
  • Check with your cybersecurity professionals to make sure that your systems are patched and protected against all known vulnerabilities, and change passwords across your networks so that previously stolen credentials are useless to malicious actors;
     
  • Back up your data and ensure you have offline backups beyond the reach of malicious actors;
     
  • Run exercises and drill your emergency plans so that you are prepared to respond quickly to minimize the impact of any attack;
     
  • Encrypt your data so it cannot be used if it is stolen;
     
  • Educate your employees to common tactics that attackers will use over email or through websites, and encourage them to report if their computers or phones have shown unusual behavior, such as unusual crashes or operating very slowly; and
     
  • Engage proactively with your local FBI field office or CISA Regional Office to establish relationships in advance of any cyber incidents. Please encourage your IT and Security leadership to visit the websites of CISA and the FBI where they will find technical information and other useful resources.

We also must focus on bolstering America’s cybersecurity over the long term. We encourage technology and software companies to: 

  • Build security into your products from the ground up — “bake it in, don’t bolt it on” — to protect both your intellectual property and your customers’ privacy.
     
  • Develop software only on a system that is highly secure and accessible only to those actually working on a particular project.  This will make it much harder for an intruder to jump from system to system and compromise a product or steal your intellectual property.
     
  • Use modern tools to check for known and potential vulnerabilities. Developers can fix most software vulnerabilities — if they know about them.  There are automated tools that can review code and find most coding errors before software ships, and before a malicious actor takes advantage of them. 
     
  • Software developers are responsible for all code used in their products, including open source code. Most software is built using many different components and libraries, much of which is open source.  Make sure developers know the provenance (i.e., origin) of components they are using and have a “software bill of materials” in case one of those components is later found to have a vulnerability so you can rapidly correct it. 
     
  • Implement the security practices mandated in the President’s Executive Order, Improving our Nation’s Cybersecurity. Pursuant to that EO, all software the U.S. government purchases is now required to meet security standards in how it is built and deployed. We encourage you to follow those practices more broadly.

NYS Goes on Offensive in Protecting CyberSecurity With First-in-Nation Joint Security Ops Center

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed a historic $61.9 million investment in the state’s cyber protections, which includes creating the first-in-nation Joint Security Operations Center to oversee cybersecurity across the state and $30 million to help local governments bolster their cyber defenses © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The New York JSOC Will Serve as a First-of-its-Kind Hub for Data Sharing and Cyber Coordination Across New York State, New York City, the Five Major Upstate Cities, Local and Regional Governments, Critical Infrastructure and Federal Partners

Announcement Builds on Governor Hochul’s Unprecedented $61.9 Million Investment in the State’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure as Part of FY23 Budget

Governor Proposes Historic New $30 Million Program for Localities to Help Bolster Cyber Defenses Statewide

As reports have come in about cyberattacks to cripple Ukraine, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced the creation of a Joint Security Operations Center in Brooklyn that will serve as the nerve center for joint local, state and federal cyber efforts, including data collection, response efforts and information sharing.  A partnership  launched with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, and cyber leaders across the state, the JSOC is the nation’s first-of-its-kind cyber command center that will provide a statewide view of the cyber-threat landscape and improve coordination on threat intelligence and incident response.

“There is a new type of emerging risk that threatens our daily lives, and just as we improved our physical security infrastructure in the aftermath of 9/11, we must now transform how we approach cybersecurity with that same rigor and seriousness,” Governor Hochul said. “I’m proud to announce this dynamic and innovative partnership to establish the Joint Security Operations Center in collaboration with New York City, our upstate cities, and government and business leaders across the state. Cybersecurity has been a priority for my administration since Day 1, and this command center will strengthen our ability to protect New York’s institutions, infrastructure, our citizens and public safety.” 

This innovative collaboration has been months in the making and is the result of Governor Hochul and her team’s early vision and commitment to enhancing the State’s cybersecurity posture. No other state has brought together cybersecurity teams in a shared command space at this scale including federal, state, city, and county governments, critical businesses and utilities, and state entities like Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Information Technology Services, New York State Police, MTA, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York Power Authority, among others.

New York’s leadership in finance, energy, transportation, healthcare, and other critical fields makes the State an attractive target for cyberattacks that can disrupt operations, including critical infrastructure and services to citizens. While government entities across the State have historically taken an independent approach to cyber defense and protecting the safety of their technology assets, acting alone is no longer optimal. As the frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks have grown, so too has the need for a “whole of government” approach.

The JSOC, headquartered in Brooklyn and staffed by both physical and virtual participants from across the state, will improve defenses by allowing cyber teams to have a centralized viewpoint of threat data. This will yield better collaboration on threat intelligence, reduction in response time, and quicker remediation in the event of a major cyber incident. It will help participating entities respond to potential issues and elevate systemic trends that may have otherwise gone undetected. This approach leverages all the cyber defense assets at the state, city, local and authority-level under one umbrella.

New York State will collaborate with city and regional leaders on cyber trainings and exercises as the JSOC becomes operational over the coming months. The Governor and her team will continue ongoing conversations with the White House and federal partners to ensure coordination.

This builds on Governor Hochul’s historic proposal in this year’s budget for investment in New York State’s cyber protections, which includes $61.9 million for cybersecurity, doubling the previous investment. These investments will fund critical protections, including the expansion of the state’s cyber Red Team program to provide additional penetration testing, an expanded phishing exercise program, vulnerability scanning and additional cyber incident response services. These investments help ensure that if one part of the network is attacked, the State can isolate and protect the rest of the system.

As part of this proposal, the Governor is also proposing a $30 million “shared services” program to help local governments and other regional partners acquire and deploy high quality cybersecurity services to bolster their cyber defenses. The interconnected nature of the state’s networks and IT programs means that attacks can quickly spread across the state. Many government entities often do not have the funding or resources necessary to protect their systems, some which provide critical services like healthcare, law enforcement, emergency management, water treatment, and unemployment insurance, to name a few. 

In remarks announcing the new cybersecurity effort, Governor Hochul said, “Given the increasingly volatile geopolitical circumstances with Russia and Ukraine. And we just heard from President Biden moments ago on the advancing troops from Russia, we can no longer act independently. And that has been the case where the state of New York has its plan. City of New York has a plan. Our mayors, our local governments throughout the state of New York. And that is not sustainable in light of the threats that we’re seeing. And we can’t expect cities and counties to go it alone. They don’t have the resources, they don’t have the technological know-how and we’re rethinking our entire approach to cybersecurity really based on the model that was put together after 9/11, when we had a fight and talk about how we can bring people together for our physical security. And that was the genesis of the joint terrorism task force…

We realized that we’re only as strong as our weakest link and the synergy between even our local governments, our cities, and our counties, they’re connected to our state operations. So an attack on them could lead to a larger attack and disruption of service from the state as well. So again, breaking down the silos, the data sharing that has not gone on and bringing it together under one place, and we can strengthen our defenses exponentially.

“And we all know that cyber criminals are relentless. They are motivated, whether they’re state actors, whether they’re rogue individuals, they’re trying to disrupt our operations. Their intent is truly malicious, and that’s why we want to take serious steps here today.

“They’re trying to disrupt our systems and sometimes even extort us for money. And we’ve seen that with hospitals and schools and universities in our own state. And in fact that right now, even costs us $5 to $10 billion a year annually. And just in the last year, 2020 to 21, we’ve had actually 85 serious attacks. And this is even before we’re dealing with the geopolitical situation that I referenced earlier.

“So we know cyber-attacks will continue to happen. And in the long term, this joint security operation, which we call JSOC, you always have to have an acronym if you’re talking about anything in law enforcement, JSOC, this’ll be the tip of the spear for our cybersecurity operations in the state.

“So we know cyber-attacks will continue to happen. And in the long term, this joint security operation, which we call JSOC, you always have to have an acronym if you’re talking about anything in law enforcement, JSOC, this’ll be the tip of the spear for our cybersecurity operations in the state.

“And here we are at 11 MetroTech. And again, this will allow us to have a statewide view and operation sharing. They’ll be doing tabletop exercises. They’ll be working closely together. And I have to tell you, this is absolutely unprecedented. I anticipate that this will be a model for other states. Other areas should be dealing with the same sense of urgency that we [bring] to this. But we know New York state, New York City, we are always going to be in the line of sight for the terrorists and those who want to disrupt our way of life. And knowing that we are the epicenter of financial institutions, and our operations are large infrastructure, and our transportation systems, the MTA, the Port Authority. So that is why we were working so closely with them. And I want to thank Mayor Adams and Chief Technology Officer, Matt Fraser for their partnership.

“We just had a tour of the facility. It is state-of-the-art. This, again, is an incredible model of what collaboration and partner looks like as well. As I mentioned, Albany Mayor Sheehan and, Mayor Spano, who’ve traveled here together today. So this is what collaboration looks like. Physically here, but also we have to put money behind this. And I realized as Governor, and I started asking questions about what we’ve done, where our investments have been, they have been lacking. And I’m proud that my administration is proposing a historic $62 million investment in cybersecurity. More than double what has been spent in previous years and making sure that we have the resource.”

Local governments will get $30 million to buy, at a subsidized price, the technological know-how they need to defend themselves.

Hochul said the state would also be increasing the number of cybersecurity professionals in the state’s workforce, with a plan to hire 70 immediately. “We’re going to be aggressive about identifying cybersecurity individuals who are early in their careers through our Excelsior Fellows program. Also mid-year technologists who have specialties in this, offering them 18 months deployments to become embedded with these operations right here, an incredible experience for them and we’ll take from their experience as well.”

SUNY and CUNY systems are also primed to be training the next generation of professionals. The College Of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security at the University of Albany is the first of its kind in the nation. “We need to replicate this. So we have cybersecurity degrees all over the State of New York. These are our ways that we’re going to be attracting more people getting more talent here and using, the very best and the brightest that we can to address this threat.”

Hochul added, “This is also an individual challenge. And I’m afraid that many of members of the public become desensitized when they say, well, ‘You need to make sure that you have a strong passwords and multifactor authentication,’ which people not even quite sure what that means. You need to protect yourself and change your passwords. Be prepared. Act as if you know that attack is coming, because if it comes and you’re not ready, it can be devastating. Your access to your money, your ability to make purchases. You do not want to be there at a place where you would say to yourself, ‘I wish I had taken steps.’

“This is the warning. This is the warning in light of what’s happening globally. This is what is happening, throughout a normal course of our years, as we’ve seen with these attacks, we’ve experienced over the last decade. And so, now is the time for New Yorkers to be prepared. And those of us with older parents or grandparents, tell them not to open up an email if they do not know, it’s not pictures from their grandchildren, don’t open it up. Because there really is a lot of phishing going on, a lot of opportunities for people to really take your personal information and use it in nefarious ways. And so we want to make sure that our older loved ones hear this warning, understand what they need to do, or not do, in a circumstance that we’re describing here as well.

“So, I’ll close by saying the threat of cyber-attacks is very real. Particularly now, that is the warning we’re receiving out of Washington, particularly for a place like New York, and therefore our state and our cities will be taking a leading role in fortifying our defenses in the battlefield against cyber warfare.

“And we will be as relentless in our defense as the criminals are in their aggression. Mark my words, we will thwart them at every step of the way. And this is proof of what we’re doing here today. Again,first in the nation. And I do hope that other states and other governors will follow the lead of what we’re doing here today.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said,”New York City is a prime target for those who want to attack our cyber infrastructure to cause destruction. While New York City Cyber Command is already a national model for impeding these threats, it’s time our cybersecurity moved to the next level. We know that when it comes to cyberattacks, the difference between a minor disruption and a catastrophe can be a matter of minutes. That is why the new Joint Security Operations Center will take an integrated and holistic approach to hardening our cyber defenses across the state. I thank Governor Hochul and our fellow mayors for their partnership, and look forward to working with them to confront this common threat.”

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly said, “In today’s globally interconnected world, everyone plays a role in protecting Americans against the threat of cyberattacks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) applauds the creation of the NY JSOC and, as always, stands ready to partner with our state and local counterparts in keeping New York’s critical infrastructure safe and secure. Proactive cybersecurity incident response and recovery planning will help mitigate risk and ensure a unified response when an incident happens. Collaboration is at the heart of CISA’s mission, and we look forward to supporting this effort as it becomes operational.”

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said“Thanks to Governor Hochul’s leadership and vision, we are bringing an integrated, statewide approach to cybersecurity with our government partners. The JSOC will become the nerve center for collecting intelligence on potential threats, keeping an eye out for intruders and breaches, and responding to cybersecurity threats and incidents.”

New York State Office of Information Technology Services Chief Information Officer Angelo “Tony” Riddick said,”Governor Hochul’s commitment to safeguard our state’s infrastructure and the personal information of all New Yorkers has been a priority since her first day in office. The new normal of constant cyber risks threaten every level of government, so we must take innovative steps and work together. Creation of a JSOC will better protect our information and ensure we remain even more vigilant against cybercrime while keeping New Yorkers safe.”

New York State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen said,”Collaboration and information sharing are crucially important when it comes to providing security and assessing threats.  We appreciate the efforts by Governor Hochul to form this innovative partnership, which will help strengthen cybersecurity efforts and improve response to future incidents.”

Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said“The safety and security of the Port Authority’s transportation facilities remain the highest priority of the Port Authority – including a relentless focus on cybersecurity. We applaud Governor Hochul, Mayor Adams and leaders from across the state for creating the JSOC that will enhance the ability of government agencies to identify, resource and implement best practices TO combat cyber threats as they continue to evolve.”

Interim President and CEO of New York Power Authority Justin E. Driscoll said,”As the nation’s largest public state utility, cybersecurity is of utmost importance to NYPA. We are thankful to our city and state partners for their collaboration in creating the JSOC. This center will help NYPA keep our systems safe and enable us to continue to generate clean electricity and maintain one-third of the state’s transmission system without incident or interruption, all while providing a whole-of-state approach to protecting New York State from emerging threats.”

MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, “Cross-agency collaboration is key to providing the best cyber defenses. We are eager to share information and expertise about the MTA’s multilayered cybersecurity systems as we work to protect the state against potential threats.”

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “Every day, the City of Albany – like organizations across the nation – defends itself against cyber attacks originating from across the globe. As the victim of a successful ransomeware attack in 2019, the City of Albany knows full well the impact this cybersecurity threat can have on the systems that serve our residents and protect our infrastructure. Thankfully, New York State was there for us when it mattered most, and now we will proactively partner within the Joint Security Operations Center to help identify and respond to cybersecurity threats not only to our city, but other local and state agencies across New York. Thank you to Governor Hochul, Commissioner Bray, and Chief Information Officer Riddick for making this investment and deepening the vital partnerships that will help protect our entire state.” 

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “Cyber attacks are an emerging threat that state and local governments must take swift action to protect against, and I am thankful Governor Hochul has the vision to apply a statewide, all-hands-on-deck approach to ensure our safety. I am pleased that Buffalo is part of the launch of this first-of-its-kind Joint Security Operations Center that will position us to be better prepared to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from cyberattacks.”

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said, “We look forward to working with the state and our other municipal partners to address the critical issue of cybersecurity. We appreciate the Governor’s investment to protect our data. Any attacks on our technical infrastructure systems is actually an attack on the citizens we serve, so bolstering our defenses is a wholly worthwhile endeavor.”

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said,”Cybersecurity is a challenge facing every public and private sector organization every day. Cities are dealing with very similar vulnerabilities, threats and risks. Through the JSOC we will be better able to share intelligence and solutions and better protect our critical assets and the people we serve. I thank Governor Hochul for not just providing resources to our communities but for creating a command center so the state can share more data, information and expertise to confront this always-changing risk. We are always stronger working together.”

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said,”The recent wave of cyber security attacks serves as a wake-up call for cities across our country. I thank Governor Hochul for her proactive approach in giving Mayors, who are the generals on the frontlines, a seat at the table to work one on one with some of the most brilliant cyber defense minds in the country as we amplify our cyber security.” 

Biden Administration and Private Sector Leaders Initiate Ambitious Initiatives to Bolster the Nation’s Cybersecurity

Back in August, President Biden met with private sector and education leaders to discuss the whole-of-nation effort needed to address cybersecurity threats. Recent high-profile cybersecurity incidents demonstrate that both U.S. public and private sector entities increasingly face sophisticated malicious cyber activity. Cybersecurity threats and incidents affect businesses of all sizes, small towns and cities in every corner of the country, and the pocketbooks of middle-class families. Compounding the challenge, nearly half a million public and private cybersecurity jobs remain unfilled. The White House provided a fact sheet outlining steps the Biden Administration is taking to address cybersecurity:

Cybersecurity is a national security and economic security imperative for the Biden Administration and we are prioritizing and elevating cybersecurity like never before. On May 12, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order that modernizes Federal Government defenses and improves the security of technology. To secure our critical infrastructure, this spring the Biden Administration launched a 100-day initiative to improve cybersecurity across the electric sector with others to follow. On July 28, the President issued a National Security Memorandum establishing voluntary cybersecurity goals that clearly outline our expectations for owners and operators of critical infrastructure. The Administration has also engaged with the private sector on the importance of prioritizing cybersecurity as a central part of their efforts to maintain business continuity. And internationally, the Biden Administration has rallied G7 countries to hold accountable nations who harbor ransomware criminals and to update NATO cyber policy for the first time in seven years.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss opportunities to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity in partnership and individually. Several participants announced commitments and initiatives including:

  • The Biden Administration announced that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will collaborate with industry and other partners to develop a new framework to improve the security and integrity of the technology supply chain. The approach will serve as a guideline to public and private entities on how to build secure technology and assess the security of technology, including open source software. Microsoft, Google, Travelers, and Coalition committed to participating in this NIST-led initiative.
     
  • The Biden Administration also announced the formal expansion of the Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Initiative to a second major sector: natural gas pipelines. The Initiative has already improved the cybersecurity of more than 150 electric utilities that serve 90 million Americans.
     
  • Apple announced it will establish a new program to drive continuous security improvements throughout the technology supply chain. As part of that program, Apple will work with its suppliers — including more than 9,000 in the United States— to drive the mass adoption of multi-factor authentication, security training, vulnerability remediation, event logging, and incident response.
     
  • Google announced it will invest $10 billion over the next five years to expand zero-trust programs, help secure the software supply chain, and enhance open-source security. Google also announced it will help 100,000 Americans earn industry-recognized digital skills certificates that provide the knowledge that can lead to secure high-paying, high-growth jobs. 
     
  • IBM announced it will train 150,000 people in cybersecurity skills over the next three years, and will partner with more than 20 Historically Black Colleges & Universities to establish Cybersecurity Leadership Centers to grow a more diverse cyber workforce.
     
  • Microsoft announced it will invest $20 billion over the next 5 years to accelerate efforts to integrate cyber security by design and deliver advanced security solutions. Microsoft also announced it will immediately make available $150 million in technical services to help federal, state, and local governments with upgrading security protection, and will expand partnerships with community colleges and non-profits for cybersecurity training.
     
  • Amazon announced it will make available to the public at no charge the security awareness training it offers its employees. Amazon also announced it will make available to all Amazon Web Services account holders at no additional cost, a multi-factor authentication device to protect against cybersecurity threats like phishing and password theft.
     
  • Resilience, a cyber insurance provider, announced it will require policy holders to meet a threshold of cybersecurity best practice as a condition of receiving coverage.
     
  • Coalition, a cyber insurance provider, announced it will make its cybersecurity risk assessment & continuous monitoring platform available for free to any organization.
     
  • Code.org announced it will teach cybersecurity concepts to over 3 million students across 35,000 classrooms over 3 years, to teach a diverse population of students how to stay safe online, and to build interest in cybersecurity as a potential career.
     
  • Girls Who Code announced it will establish a micro credentialing program for historically excluded groups in technology. The program will make scholarships and early career opportunities more accessible to underrepresented groups.
     
  • University of Texas System announced it will expand existing and develop new short-term credentials in cyber-related fields to strengthen America’s cybersecurity workforce. A major part of this effort will be to upskill and reskill over 1 million workers across the nation by making available entry-level cyber educational programs through UT San Antonio’s Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Credentials do not depend on traditional degree pathways, and should also contribute significantly to diversifying the pipeline. 
     
  • Whatcom Community College announced it has been designated the new NSF Advanced Technological Education National Cybersecurity Center, and will provide cybersecurity education and training to faculty and support program development for colleges to “fast-track” students from college to career. The nature of community colleges dispersed in every community in the nation makes them an ideal pipeline for increasing diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity workforce.

President Biden Signs Executive Order Charting New Course to Improve Nation’s Cybersecurity, Protect Government Networks

Just days after Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 45 percent of the gasoline to the Eastern Seaboard, was hit by a ransomware attack which the FBI believes was perpetrated by DarkSide, a relatively new criminal group based in Eastern Europe exposed the vulnerability of key U.S. infrastructure, President Biden signed an Executive Order to improve the nation’s cybersecurity and protect federal government networks. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via MSNBC.

Today, just days after Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 45 percent of the gasoline to the Eastern Seaboard, was hit by a ransomware attack which the FBI believes was perpetrated by DarkSide, a relatively new criminal group based in Eastern Europe exposed the vulnerability of key U.S. infrastructure, President Biden signed an Executive Order to improve the nation’s cybersecurity and protect federal government networks.

The White House supplied this fact sheet about the actions taken under the Executive Order:

Recent cybersecurity incidents such as SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange, and the Colonial Pipeline incident are a sobering reminder that U.S. public and private sector entities increasingly face sophisticated malicious cyber activity from both nation-state actors and cyber criminals. These incidents share commonalities, including insufficient cybersecurity defenses that leave public and private sector entities more vulnerable to incidents. 

This Executive Order makes a significant contribution toward modernizing cybersecurity defenses by protecting federal networks, improving information-sharing between the U.S. government and the private sector on cyber issues, and strengthening the United States’ ability to respond to incidents when they occur.  It is the first of many ambitious steps the Administration is taking to modernize national cyber defenses.  However, the Colonial Pipeline incident is a reminder that federal action alone is not enough. Much of our domestic critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector, and those private sector companies make their own determination regarding cybersecurity investments. We encourage private sector companies to follow the Federal government’s lead and take ambitious measures to augment and align cybersecurity investments with the goal of minimizing future incidents.

Specifically, the Executive Order the President is signing today will:

Remove Barriers to Threat Information Sharing Between Government and the Private Sector. The Executive Order ensures that IT Service Providers are able to share information with the government and requires them to share certain breach information. IT providers are often hesitant or unable to voluntarily share information about a compromise.  Sometimes this can be due to contractual obligations; in other cases, providers simply may be hesitant to share information about their own security breaches. Removing any contractual barriers and requiring providers to share breach information that could impact Government networks is necessary to enable more effective defenses of Federal departments, and to improve the Nation’s cybersecurity as a whole.

Modernize and Implement Stronger Cybersecurity Standards in the Federal Government. The Executive Order helps move the Federal government to secure cloud services and a zero-trust architecture, and mandates deployment of multifactor authentication and encryption with a specific time period. Outdated security models and unencrypted data have led to compromises of systems in the public and private sectors. The Federal government must lead the way and increase its adoption of security best practices, including by employing a zero-trust security model, accelerating movement to secure cloud services, and consistently deploying foundational security tools such as multifactor authentication and encryption.

Improve Software Supply Chain Security. The Executive Order will improve the security of software by establishing baseline security standards for development of software sold to the government, including requiring developers to maintain greater visibility into their software and making security data publicly available. It stands up a concurrent public-private process to develop new and innovative approaches to secure software development and uses the power of Federal procurement to incentivize the market. Finally, it creates a pilot program to create an “energy star” type of label so the government – and the public at large – can quickly determine whether software was developed securely. Too much of our software, including critical software, is shipped with significant vulnerabilities that our adversaries exploit. This is a long-standing, well-known problem, but for too long we have kicked the can down the road. We need to use the purchasing power of the Federal Government to drive the market to build security into all software from the ground up.

Establish a Cybersecurity Safety Review Board. The Executive Order establishes a Cybersecurity Safety Review Board, co-chaired by government and private sector leads, that may convene following a significant cyber incident to analyze what happened and make concrete recommendations for improving cybersecurity. Too often organizations repeat the mistakes of the past and do not learn lessons from significant cyber incidents. When something goes wrong, the Administration and private sector need to ask the hard questions and make the necessary improvements. This board is modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board, which is used after airplane crashes and other incidents.

Create a Standard Playbook for Responding to Cyber Incidents. The Executive Order creates a standardized playbook and set of definitions for cyber incident response by federal departments and agencies. Organizations cannot wait until they are compromised to figure out how to respond to an attack. Recent incidents have shown that within the government the maturity level of response plans vary widely. The playbook will ensure all Federal agencies meet a certain threshold and are prepared to take uniform steps to identify and mitigate a threat.  The playbook will also provide the private sector with a template for its response efforts.

Improve Detection of Cybersecurity Incidents on Federal Government Networks. The Executive Order improves the ability to detect malicious cyber activity on federal networks by enabling a government-wide endpoint detection and response system and improved information sharing within the Federal government. Slow and inconsistent deployment of foundational cybersecurity tools and practices leaves an organization exposed to adversaries. The Federal government should lead in cybersecurity, and strong, Government-wide Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) deployment coupled with robust intra-governmental information sharing are essential.

Improve Investigative and Remediation Capabilities. The Executive Order creates cybersecurity event log requirements for federal departments and agencies. Poor logging hampers an organization’s ability to detect intrusions, mitigate those in progress, and determine the extent of an incident after the fact.  Robust and consistent logging practices will solve much of this problem.

Biden Rebukes Trump Administration’s ‘Roadblocks’ to National Security Transition Team as ‘Nothing Short of Irresponsible’

President-Elect Joe Biden issued his sternest condemnation yet of the Trump Administration’s “roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget” of his transition team, which will endanger national security as the Biden administration takes over in January. “It’s nothing short of irresponsible.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President-Elect Joe Biden issued his sternest condemnation yet of the Trump Administration’s “roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget” of his transition team, which will endanger national security as the Biden administration takes over in January. “It’s nothing short of irresponsible.”  

In remarks following briefings with his National Security team, Biden laid out the challenges he faces and a blueprint for his administration’s approach:

“Many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage. They’ve been hollowed out. In personnel.  In capacity. In morale. In policy processes that have atrophied or been sidelined. In the disrepair of our alliances. In our absence from key institutions that matter to the welfare of the American people. In a general disengagement from the world.
 
“And all of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people and to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting.  Rebuilding the full set of our instruments of foreign policy and national security is a key challenge that Vice President-elect Harris and I will face upon taking office — starting with our diplomacy.”

Issues ranging from climate change to global pandemic to fair trade and economic opportunity, he said, will depend on “the power of smart and effective American leadership” with partners, effectively doing a 180-degree turn from Trump’s “America First” policy.

It also means “modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future, rather than continuing to over-invest in legacy systems designed to address the threats of the past. And we have to be able to innovate and reimagine our defenses against growing threats in new realms like cyberspace.

Biden said he would work immediately to roll back the restrictions at the southern border, but cautioned that new processes and procedures will take time to implement. “We will have to have a process to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including the safety of asylum seekers hoping for a new start in the United States free from violence and persecution…

“We will champion liberty and democracy once more.  We will reclaim our credibility to lead the free world. And we will, once again, lead not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Biden declared.

Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks on December 28, from Wilmington, Delaware:

Good afternoon.

Before I begin, I want to say a few brief words on the explosion that took place Friday 
in Nashville.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement are working around the clock to gain more information on motive and intent. 

This bombing was a reminder of the destructive power that individuals and small groups can muster, and the need for continuing vigilance. 

I want to thank the police officers who worked quickly to evacuate the area before the explosion occurred, and all the firefighters and first responders who jumped into action early on Christmas morning.
 
Their bravery and cool-headedness likely saved lives and prevented a worse outcome — and we are all grateful for that.

And I know the hearts of all Americans are with the people of Nashville as they rebuild and recover from this traumatic event.

Now, Vice President-elect Harris and I, along with our nominees to lead our national security institutions, have just been briefed by some of the professionals who have been conducting agency reviews as part of our transition.

This is a long-standing part of the orderly transition of power in American democracy. 

We welcomed teams from the incoming Trump-Pence administration four years ago. 

And over the past few weeks, teams of genuine policy and management experts, many with previous government experience, have gone into agencies across the government to conduct interviews with personnel to gather information and to assess the state of the federal government that we will shortly inherit. 

These teams worked under incredibly difficult circumstances — taking COVID-19 precautions, 
and waiting weeks for ascertainment — but they have done an outstanding job.

From some agencies, our teams received exemplary cooperation from the career staff. 

From others, most notably the Department of Defense, we encountered obstruction from the political leadership. 

And the truth is: many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage.

They’ve been hollowed out. 

In personnel. In capacity. In morale.
 
In policy processes that have atrophied or been sidelined.
 
In the disrepair of our alliances.

In our absence from key institutions that matter to the welfare of the American people.

In a general disengagement from the world.
 
And all of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people and to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting.

Rebuilding the full set of our instruments of foreign policy and national security is a key challenge that Vice President-elect Harris and I will face upon taking office — starting with our diplomacy.

Today, we heard from the leaders of the State and USAID agency review teams about the critical early investments we are going to need to make in our diplomacy, in our development efforts, and in rebuilding our alliances to close ranks with our partners and bring to bear the full benefits of our shared strength for the American people.
 
When we consider the most daunting threats of our time, we know that meeting them requires American engagement and leadership, but also that none of them can be solved by America acting alone.
 
Take climate change for example.

The United States accounts for less than 15 percent of global carbon emissions. 

But without a clear, coordinated, and committed approach from the other 85 percent of carbon emitters, the world will continue to warm, storms will continue to worsen, and climate change will continue to threaten lives and livelihoods, public health, and economies — and our very existence on our planet.
 
We’ve learned so painfully this year the cost of being unprepared for a pandemic that leaps borders and circles the globe.
 
If we aren’t investing with our partners around the world in strengthening health systems everywhere, we’re undermining our ability to permanently defeat COVID-19, and we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable to the next deadly epidemic.
 
And as we compete with China and hold China’s government accountable for its abuses on trade, technology, human rights, and other fronts, our position will be much stronger when we build coalitions of like-minded partners and allies to make common cause with us in defense of our shared interests and values.
 
We are almost 25 percent of the global economy on our own, but together with our democratic partners, we more than double our economic leverage.
 
On any issue that matters to the U.S.-China relationship — from pursuing a foreign policy for the middle class, including a trade and economic agenda that protects American workers, our intellectual property, and the environment — to ensuring security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, to championing human rights — we are stronger and more effective when we are flanked by nations that share our vision for the future of our world.
 
That’s how we multiply the impact of our efforts and make those efforts more sustainable.
 
That’s the power of smart and effective American leadership.

But right now, there’s an enormous vacuum.

We’re going to have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways 
to work around us or without us.
 
We also heard from key leaders on our intelligence and defense review teams, including Stephanie O’Sullivan, former principal deputy director of national intelligence, and retired Army Lieutenant General Karen Gibson.

We talked about the different strategic challenges we will face from both Russia and China, and the reforms we must make to put ourselves in the strongest possible position to meet these challenges.
 
That includes modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future, rather than continuing to over-invest in legacy systems designed to address the threats of the past.
 
And we have to be able to innovate and reimagine our defenses against growing threats in new realms like cyberspace.
 
We are still learning about the extent of the SolarWinds hack and the vulnerabilities that have been exposed.

As I said last week — this attack constitutes a grave risk to our national security. 

And we need to close the gap between where our capabilities are now and where they need to be 
to better deter, detect, disrupt, and respond to these sorts of intrusions in the future.

This is an area where Republicans and Democrats are in agreement — and we should be able to work on a bipartisan basis to better secure the American people against malign cyber actors.

And right now, as our nation is in a period of transition, we need to make sure that nothing is lost in the handoff between administrations.
 
My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and of our operations to deter our enemies.

We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.
 
But — as I said at the beginning — we have encountered roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget. 

Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. 

It’s nothing short of irresponsible.

 
Finally, we spoke about the day-one challenges that we will need to address immediately, drawing on the skill sets of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
 
We were briefed on the steps needed to clean up the humanitarian disaster that the Trump Administration has systematically created on our southern border. 

We will institute a humane and orderly response.

That means rebuilding the capacity we need to safely and quickly process asylum seekers without creating a near-term crisis in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
 
These are hard issues. 

And the current administration has made them much harder by working to erode our capacity. 

It’s going to take time to rebuild it.

And we’re going to work purposefully and diligently to responsibly roll back Trump’s restrictions starting on day one.
 
But it’s not as simple as throwing a switch to turn everything back on — especially amid a pandemic.

We will have to have a process to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including the safety of asylum seekers hoping for a new start in the United States free from violence and persecution.
 
Of course, an essential part of this will be managing the safe, equitable, and efficient distribution of vaccines to as many Americans as possible — as quickly as possible.
 
FEMA has an enormous part to play in this, and we heard from the former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate today.

We want to make sure that our administration is poised to make full use of FEMA’s domestic reach and capacity in managing our COVID response.

Finally, from every briefer, I was heartened to also hear about the incredible strength 
we will be inheriting — the career professionals working across these agencies.

They never stop doing their jobs and continue to serve our country day in and day out to keep their fellow Americans safe, just as they have always done.
 
These agencies are filled with patriots who have earned our respect, and who should never be treated as a political football.

I’m looking forward to the honor of working with them again, to asking for their advice and inputs to help shape the best possible policies for all Americans.
 
And I want to thank the incredible folks who have served on all the Agency Review Teams as part of this transition. 

They’ve dedicated their time, energy, and vital expertise to help ensure Vice President-elect Harris and I are ready to hit the ground running.

As we look forward to the start of a new year, fresh with hope and the possibilities of better days to come, but clear-eyed about the challenges that will not disappear overnight, I want to reiterate my message to the American people:

We’ve overcome incredible challenges as a nation. And we will do so again.

We’ll do it by coming together.
 
By uniting after a year of pain and loss to heal, to rebuild, and to reclaim America’s place in the world.

This is the work that lies ahead of us, and I know we are up to the task. 

We will champion liberty and democracy once more. 

We will reclaim our credibility to lead the free world. 

And we will, once again, lead not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. 
 
May God bless you all.

May God protect our troops.

Biden, Decrying Trump’s Failure to Protect US Elections from Foreign Interference, States Actions He Would Take

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, issued a forceful statement decrying the Trump administration’s failure to protect America’s election and democracy from foreign interference, warning how the threat undermines America’s sovereignty and describing what he would do – indeed, what a functioning President and government should do – immediately upon taking office (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, issued a forceful statement decrying the Trump administration’s failure to protect America’s election and democracy from foreign interference, warning how the threat undermines America’s sovereignty and describing what he would do – indeed, what a functioning President and government should do – immediately upon taking office . Here is his statement:

Foreign interference in the U.S. electoral process represents an assault on the American people and their constitutional right to vote. When foreign states direct hackers, trolls, money launderers, and misinformation to subvert or cast doubt on our elections, they threaten America’s sovereignty, democratic institutions, and national security. They undermine the vote and the voice of every U.S. citizen. They attack our very way of life.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has concluded that the Kremlin’s interference in past elections represented “only the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.” Despite the exposure of Russia’s malign activities by the U.S. Intelligence Community, law enforcement agencies, and bipartisan Congressional committees, the Kremlin has not halted its efforts to interfere in our democracy. In Senate testimony on July 23 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that Russia was “absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.” And on March 27, 2020, the State Department held a briefing describing how Russia was recklessly spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia is not the only foreign actor seeking to interfere in our democracy. Increasingly, other states have shown an interest in copying Russia’s tactics.

Congress passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017. The Trump administration has thus far failed to make adequate use of these authorities to counter and deter foreign election interference. Instead, President Trump has repeatedly denied that Russia interfered in our elections, most egregiously during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

In spite of President Trump’s failure to act, America’s adversaries must not misjudge the resolve of the American people to counter every effort by a foreign power to interfere in our democracy, whether by hacking voting systems and databases, laundering money into our political system, systematically spreading disinformation, or trying to sow doubt about the integrity of our elections.

That is why, today, I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice. If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government. I will direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections. I will direct my administration to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators. These costs could include financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses, and the exposure of corruption. A range of other actions could also be taken, depending on the nature of the attack. I will direct our response at a time and in a manner of our choosing.

In addition, I will take action where needed to stop attempts to interfere with U.S. elections before they can impact our democratic processes. In particular, I will direct and resource the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Foreign Interference Task Force to develop plans for disrupting foreign threats to our elections process. This will be done, wherever possible, in coordination with our allies and partners, so that we are isolating the regimes that seek to undermine democracies and civil liberties.

I have no desire to escalate tensions with Russia or any other country. I would prefer to focus the full energies of my administration on bringing the international community together to fight COVID-19 and the economic pain it has caused, and to tackle other pressing issues of international concern. But if any foreign power recklessly chooses to interfere in our democracy, I will not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs.

Mueller Hearings: House Intel Chair Adam Schiff Decries Trump Campaign Cooperation with Russian Interference In Elections-A Story of Disloyalty, Greed, Lies

House Intelligence Committee Chairman gavels in hearings with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to address the findings of the Mueller Report © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

House Intelligence committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), in his opening and closing statements for the historic hearings on July 24, 2019, set out the significance of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Election, and the ramifications of the government’s failure to prevent such interference in future elections.

“When asked, ‘If the Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President?” ‘Why not?’ was the essence of his answer. ‘Everyone does it.’

“No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still, that our government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.

“This is what is at stake, our next election, and the one after that for generations to come. Our democracy.”

Here is the text of his opening and closing statements: – – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Your report, for those who have taken the time to study it, is methodical and it is devastating, for it tells the story of a foreign adversary’s sweeping and systemic intervention in a close U.S. presidential election.

That should be enough to deserve the attention of every American, as you well point out. But your report tells another story as well. The story of the 2016 election is also a story about disloyalty to country, about greed, and about lies.

Your investigation determined that the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump himself, knew that a foreign power was intervening in our election and welcomed it, built Russian meddling into their strategy and used it.

Disloyalty to country. Those are strong words, but how else are we to describe a presidential campaign which did not inform the authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on their opponent, which did not publicly shun it or turn it away, but which instead invited it, encouraged it and made full use of it?

That disloyalty may not have been criminal. Constrained by uncooperative witnesses, the destruction of documents and the use of encrypted communications, your team was not able to establish each of the elements of the crime of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt, so not a provable crime in any event.

But I think maybe something worse: The crime is the violation of law written by Congress. But disloyalty to country violates the very oath of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded that we, the people and not some foreign power that wishes us ill, we decide who governs us.

This is also a story about money, and about greed and corruption. About the leadership of a campaign willing to compromise the nation’s interest not only to win, but to make money at the same time.

About a campaign chairman indebted to pro-Russian interests who tried to use his position to clear his debts and make millions. About a national security advisor using his position to make money from still other foreign interests.

And about a candidate trying to make more money than all of them put together through real estate project that to him was worth a fortune, hundreds of millions of dollars and the realization of a life-long ambition, a Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow. A candidate who, in fact, viewed his whole campaign as the greatest infomercial in history.

Donald Trump and his senior staff were not alone in their desire to use the election to make money. For Russia, too, there was a powerful financial motive. Putin wanted relief from U.S. economic sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and over human rights violations.

The secret Trump Tower meeting between the Russians and senior campaign officials was about sanctions. The secret conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador were about sanctions. Trump and his team wanted more money for themselves, and the Russians wanted more money for themselves and for their oligarchs.

But the story doesn’t end here either, for your report also tells a story about lies. Lots of lies. Lies about a gleaming tower in Moscow and lies about talks with the Kremlin. Lies about the firing of FBI Director James Comey and lies about efforts to fire you, Director Mueller, and lies to cover it up. Lies about secret negotiations with the Russians over sanctions and lies about WikiLeaks. Lies about polling data and lies about hush money payments. Lies about meetings in the Seychelles to set up secret back channels and lies about a secret meeting in New York Trump Tower. Lies to the FBI, lies to your staff, and lies to this committee. Lies to obstruct an investigation into the most serious attack on our democracy by a foreign power in our history.

That is where your report ends, Director Mueller, with a scheme to cover up, obstruct and deceive every bit as systematic and pervasive as the Russian disinformation campaign itself, but far more pernicious since this rot came from within.

Even now after 448 pages and two volumes, the deception continues. The president and his accolades say your report found no collusion, though your report explicitly declined to address that question, since collusion can involve both criminal and noncriminal conduct.

Your report laid out multiple offers of Russian help to the Trump campaign, the campaign’s acceptance of that help, and overt acts in furtherance of Russian help. To most Americans that is the very definition of collusion, whether it is a crime or not.

They say your report found no evidence of obstruction, though you outlined numerous actions by the president intended to obstruct the investigation.

They say the president has been fully exonerated, though you specifically declare you could not exonerate him.

In fact, they say your whole investigation was nothing more than a witch hunt, that the Russians didn’t interfere in our election, that it’s all a terrible hoax. The real crime, they say, is not that the Russians intervened to help Donald Trump, but that the FBI investigated it when they did.

But worst of all, worse than all the lies and the greed, is the disloyalty to country, for that, too, continues.

When asked, “If the Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President?” “Why not?” was the essence of his answer. “Everyone does it.”

No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still, that our government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.

This is what is at stake, our next election, and the one after that for generations to come. Our democracy.

This is why your work matters, Director Mueller. This is why our investigation matters, to bring these dangers to light.

Closing Statement:

Director Mueller, let me close by returning to where I began. Thank you for your service and thank you for leading this investigation. The facts you set out in your report and have elucidated here today tell a disturbing tale of a massive Russian intervention in our election, of a campaign so eager to win, so driven by greed, that it was willing to accept the help of a hostile foreign power, and a presidential election decided by a handful of votes in a few key states.

Your work tells of a campaign so determined to conceal their corrupt use of foreign help that they risked going to jail by lying to you, to the FBI and to Congress about it and, indeed, some have gone to jail over such lies. And your work speaks of a president who committed countless acts of obstruction of justice that in my opinion and that of many other prosecutors, had it been anyone else in the country, they would have been indicted.

Notwithstanding, the many things you have addressed today and in your report, there were some questions you could not answer given the constraints you’re operating under. You would not tell us whether you would have indicted the president but for the OLC only that you could not, and so the Justice Department will have to make that decision when the president leaves office, both as to the crime of obstruction of justice and as to the campaign finance fraud scheme that individual one directed and coordinated and for which Michael Cohen went to jail.

You would not tell us whether the president should be impeached, nor did we ask you since it is our responsibility to determine the proper remedy for the conduct outlined in your report. Whether we decide to impeach the president in the House or we do not, we must take any action necessary to protect the country while he is in office.

You would not tell us the results or whether other bodies looked into Russian compromise in the form of money laundering, so we must do so. You would not tell us whether the counterintelligence investigation revealed whether people still serving within the administration pose a risk of compromise and should never have been given a security clearance, so we must find out.

We did not bother to ask whether financial inducements from any gulf nations were influencing this U.S. policy, since it is outside the four corners of your report, and so we must find out.

One thing is clear from your report, your testimony from Director Wray’s statements yesterday, the Russians massively intervened in 2016, and they are prepared to do so again in voting that is set to begin a mere eight months from now.

The president seems to welcome the help again. And so, we must make all efforts to harden our election’s infrastructure to ensure there is a paper trail for all voting, to deter the Russians from meddling, to discover it when they do, to disrupt it, and to make them pay.

Protecting the sanctity of our elections begins, however, with the recognition that accepting foreign help is disloyal to our country, unethical, and wrong. We cannot control what the Russians do, not completely, but we can decide what we do and that the centuries old experiment we call American democracy is worth cherishing.

Amidst Reports of Russian Election Hacking, Cuomo Unveils Steps to Strengthen NYS CyberSecurity

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo takes new steps to further secure New York State’s elections infrastructure and protect against foreign interference © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In the wake of Donald Trump’s apparent indifference to the continued threat of Russia and other actors against elections, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a comprehensive initiative with the State Board of Elections to further secure New York State’s elections infrastructure and protect against foreign interference. The initiative will help County Boards of Elections strengthen their election cyber security in the face of foreign threats after the Department of Justice released an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking during the 2016 elections, which also alleged that Russian intelligence officers hacked into the website of a yet-unidentified state board of elections.

In the FY 2019 budget, Governor Cuomo secured $5 million to expand and further support statewide election cyber security infrastructure. The State will solicit contracts in the next few days for three independent services for County Boards of Elections, including: 1) cyber security risk assessments; 2) enhanced intrusion detection devices; and 3) managed security services. The State’s Secure Election Center, managed by the State Board of Elections, will also provide statewide, uniform cybersecurity training to all state and county election officials and staff prior to the Midterm Elections.

“While President Trump stands by those who seek to undermine our democracy, New York is taking aggressive action to protect our elections from foreign interference,” Governor Cuomo said. “There is nothing more sacred than democracy, and New Yorkers should know that when they cast their ballot that their vote is safe. The groundbreaking cyber security initiative we launch today will harden and protect our election infrastructure from the very real threat of foreign meddling. While the President has abdicated his responsibility to defend this country and left our electoral system open to sabotage by foreign adversaries, New York is fighting back and leading the way.”

“The integrity of our Elections system is our number one priority,” Co-Executive Director of the State Board of Elections Robert A. Brehmsaid. “The State Board has and will continue to diligently work and collaborate with our federal, state and county partners to strengthen and protect our elections infrastructure from any interference.”

“We have been working diligently since the 2016 election to improve security at the State Board, including our statewide voter registration database and networks with our counties,” Co-Executive Director of the State Board of Elections Todd D. Valentine said. “These additional services will ensure publicly facing applications and infrastructure for the county boards of elections will be more secure and better position the entire state elections system to respond to cyber incidents.  These new revelations only serve to confirm that the measures we have taken so far to protect our elections are necessary and we have to remain vigilant as we move into the mid-term elections.”

This initiative builds on Governor Cuomo’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of elections in New York State. The State will execute contractsbeginning the first week of August through the Office of General Services on behalf of the State Board of Elections.

Comprehensive Risk Assessment for all County Boards of Election

The State Board of Elections will contract for professional services to conduct a comprehensive, uniform and verified risk assessment at every County Board of Elections. The State Board of Elections has conducted a County Board of Elections risk survey to gain an understanding of the security posture of each county board. This risk assessment will build off the county risk survey.  This contract will provide a uniform and verified third party risk assessment which is critical in ascertaining a security baseline for our statewide elections infrastructure.

Enhanced Intrusion Detection Systems and Managed Security Services for County Boards of Election 

Additionally, the State Board of Elections will contract for a vendor to provide enhanced intrusion detection systems and managed security services for all the County Boards of Elections. An intrusion detection system is a system that monitors network traffic for suspicious activity and issues alerts when such activity is discovered. Managed Security Services correlate logs/traffic and creates actionable reports on malicious cyber activity. Quote solicitations will seek to identify qualified companies on backdrop contracts that can fulfill the request for these services.

Cyber Security Training Program

The Secure Elections Center, housed in NYSBOE, will provide uniform online technical training courses and security awareness programs to all state and county election officials and staff. These web-based trainings will be provided prior to the 2018 Midterm Elections. As part of these trainings, officials and staff will learn cyber-hygiene, best email practices and how to identify phishing campaigns, among other topics.

This initiative will build upon Governor Cuomo’s efforts to safeguard New York State elections including:

  • The State Board of Elections recently concluded a first-of-its-kind series of six regional tabletop exercises to identify risks and safeguard the election process against a cyber-attack.  The State Board is coordinating with the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide three on-line tabletop exercises in August 2018 for county election and IT professionals.
  • Following the Governor’s 2018 State of the State proposals in January, New York was recognized as having one of the most secure elections systems in the nation in the Center for American Progress’ recent report.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “With the Trump administration putting our country at risk and continuing to ignore the reality of Russian election interference, it’s up to New York to lead the way once again to protect the integrity of our elections. Sadly, we can’t count on the current federal government to protect us from threats of foreign election meddling. Our new cyber security initiative will give New Yorkers peace of mind as they go to the ballot box and will protect our democracy from those who seek to cause harm.”

William Pelgrin, Co-Chair of Governor Cuomo’s Cyber Security Advisory Board, Founder of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), CEO of CyberWA, Inc., and Board Director and Global Strategic Advisor for Global Cyber Alliance, said, “This announcement again demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s and New York’s strong commitment toward an enhanced cyber security posture. This initiative will greatly assist County Board of Elections by facilitating the process to identify and deploy key essential layers of cyber security. Cyber security risk assessments and intrusion detection devices are critical layers of preparedness to understand one’s computing infrastructure and what is required to address any associated risks as well as continuously monitoring that environment for malicious activities.”

Richard Clarke, Governor Cuomo’s Cyber Security Advisory Board Member, Chairman and CEO, Good Harbor Consulting, LLC and Former White House Counter-Terrorism and Cyber Security Advisor, said, “Given the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russian efforts to interfere in our democracy continue, Governor Cuomo’s steps to protect the election infrastructure are commendable and should be immediately copied by other states.”

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Roger Parrino said, “Security of our election process is paramount. These initiatives support our state and local partners to strengthen our election cyber infrastructure from those who seek to manipulate our election process.”

New York State Office of General Service Commissioner RoAnnDestito said, “Governor Cuomo has been clear that secure elections are fundamental to democracy and these steps by the Board of Elections will help further protect this process in New York State.”

After Trump tried to undo the damage of his statements in Helsinki by claiming that he “misspoke” when he left out “not” regarding whether Russia was to blame for hacking the 2016 election, Cuomo took him to task.

“Mr. President: Do you think the American people are stupid? You’re the leader of the free world – you don’t misspeak when it comes to our foreign enemies. You shamefully defended those who tried to sabotage our democracy, and now Congress must decide if your remarks or actions were in fact treasonous.

“While it’s clear we cannot rely on this federal government to protect the sanctity of our elections, New York will do everything in its power to.  In light of this potential foreign interference, today we announced a groundbreaking cyber security initiative to strengthen our election infrastructure.  I urge Congress to step up and do the same.”

In Helsinki, Trump had said, “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server.” The next day, in a room full of Republican Congressmembers, Trump claimed that he should have said, “would not be”.

 

Foreign Policy Experts Nance, Stavridis Warn of Global, Domestic Threats to Democracy as Authoritarians Rise

Malcolm Nance (left), a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridi (right)s who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, engage in a dialogue on foreign policy moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.” 

Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:

Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we? 

Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.

Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.

We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.

Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.

We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.

We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]

Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,

So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.

Louis: Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity? 

Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.

When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.

It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.

Admiral Stavridis: “Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.

What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.

Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?   

Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.

Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.

Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.

Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.

Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)

Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?

Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a  global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you  lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).

Malcolm Nance: “Trump thinks diplomacy is a big stick. His way of negotiating is threatening..A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.”
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.

Louis: Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?

Nance:  It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.

Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.

What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.

Louis: How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?

Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.

Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was  broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.

Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia. 

Louis: China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?

Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)

Errol Louis: What is Putin’s end game? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Louis: What is Putin’s end game?

Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power.  All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.

Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.

Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture.  Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin  and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”

Q&A

Is climate change a national security issue?

Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.

What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?

Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.

Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.

Malcolm Nance, Errol Louis, Admiral James Stavridis and Rabbi Stephen S. Widom who hosts the Cultural Arts events at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?

Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft  power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)

Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.

Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?

Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen.  Where the president violated his oath of office,  you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.

What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy? 

Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.

Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.

We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.

The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.

Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?

Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.

Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.

To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?

Nance:  Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick.  They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’

What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?

Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.

The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?

Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.

Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached? 

Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue

Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.

In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?

Stavridis: Yes.

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