Week in Review
Russian hacking and propaganda
- A report released by the U.S. intelligence community on Friday concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin directly ordered the hacking of Democratic Party networks and other actions as part of a campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.
- Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Russian government engaged in a “multifaceted campaign” against Democratic Party targets that included hacking as well as the deliberate spread of fake news and propaganda on social media.
- Republican and Democratic senators expressed discontent that there is no comprehensive strategy for responding to cyberattacks or a concrete definition of an act of cyberwar. Answering those questions will be the goal of a new Senate Armed Services subcommittee on cybersecurity.
- Clapper wants to create an “information agency on steroids” to fight foreign propaganda campaigns. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who will chair the cybersecurity subcommittee, wants to create a new “counter-Russia account” as part of the foreign operations appropriations measure to counter Russia’s propaganda and fake news.
Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies
- President-elect Donald Trump tweeted statements by WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange signaling skepticism of U.S. intelligence agencies on Russian hacking, leading to criticism from some GOP leaders on Capitol Hill. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Clapper he believes Assange put intelligence officials’ “lives in danger.”
- The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump is planning to shrink and restructure the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said there is “no truth” to the report.
- Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said he plans to make changes to key portions of the Communications Act this year. He said his committee will likely go through a step-by-step approach instead of a full-scale rewrite.
- Trump is still against AT&T Inc.’s proposed $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner Inc. because he believes it would concentrate too much power in the media industry, according to unnamed sources close to the president-elect. The merger looks like it will avoid Federal Communications Commission review, according to an AT&T filing.
- T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere said a merger with SoftBank Group/Sprint Corp. is a “potential future outcome” of the incoming Trump administration and a friendlier regulatory environment.
- Verizon Communications Inc. is unsure about its planned acquisition of Yahoo Inc.’s internet business after Yahoo disclosed the largest known data breach in history last month.
- President Barack Obama renominated former Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for a second term, but Thune said Trump should “be able to nominate the commissioners he wants to serve.” Rosenworcel would have to receive a confirmation vote from Thune’s committee before receiving a confirmation vote from the full Senate.