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Maloney and Velázquez call for investigation into alleged Russian election hacks

December 22, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (left) and Nydia Velázquez. Photos courtesy of the offices of Maloney and Velázquez

U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velázquez, whose districts include parts of Brooklyn, have joined with other U.S. officials in calling for investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Maloney and Velázquez added their voices to those of four U.S. Senators— Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed and Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain — who together on Sunday to call for a special Senate investigative committee.

U.S. intelligence agencies have voiced concern that cyberwarfare tactics favoring the election of President-elect Donald Trump — including the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system — may have been directed by Russia’s President Putin. Trump has openly scoffed at the idea that Russia actively contributed to his presidential victory.

Maloney is calling for a bipartisan Congressional investigation.

“The intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia acted in a way to undermine our elections is deeply troubling and to restore full faith in our electoral process, our country needs to take action and get answers,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.

Velázquez, however, wants a separate investigation headed by the Department of Justice. On Tuesday she wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asking her to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate the cyberattacks before leaving office. The Special Counsel’s work could continue into the Trump administration, Velázquez wrote.

“I would request you empower this counsel to continue their inquiry until all relevant facts have been unearthed, which will likely require their work to continue into the next administration,” Velázquez wrote in her letter. “As you are aware, nothing in statute or existing regulations requires a Special Counsel to circumscribe, alter or end their investigation with a change in administration or the confirmation of a new Attorney General.”

Velázquez said she wanted a Special Counsel to handle the investigation because of the complexity of the topic, the lack of deadlines for a Congressional hearing and the lack of any timeline concerning the establishment of a commission or a select Congressional committee.

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Schumer: ‘That is serious, serious stuff.’

“The fact that the Russians used cyber security to hack our infrastructure, our economics, our countries is well known,” Schumer said on Sunday. “The fact that they’re hacking our political system and trying to influence the outcome as it seems to be: that is serious, serious stuff.”

He bucked the suggestion of Senate leader Mitch McConnell that the intelligence committee conduct the investigation alone, pointing to conflicting jurisdictions, contradictory information and the business of the existing committees, which are preparing for the incoming Trump administration.

“We don’t want this investigation to be political like the Benghazi investigation. We don’t want it to just be finger pointing at one person or another. We want to find out what the Russians are doing to our political system and what other foreign governments might do to our political system. And then figure out a way to stop it,” Schumer said.

Cyber attacks hard to trace

There still remains some difference of opinion in the intelligence community regarding the origin of the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system.

The malware used in the DNC attack, called X-Agent, is a variant of a type also used in the Ukraine and against the World Anti-Doping Agency in support of Russian government disinformation campaigns, the cybersecurity news service Data Breach Today reports.

However, according to the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT), a cybersecurity think tank, although the invasion of the DNC’s systems bore all the earmarks of a Russian attack, attribution of data breaches is not an exact science.

The path is muddled in the DNC’s case for a number of reasons, ICIT senior fellow James Scott says, including the poor security of the DNC’s servers, the DNC’s attraction as a target for bad actors, and because the malware discovered on the DNC systems were “well-known, publically disclosed, and variants could be purchased on Deep Web markets and forums.”

 

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