Trump’s Secret Private Cybersecurity Team?
Trump’s staff released a short statement on cybersecurity, with the most cited phrase being “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election”. The statement did not agree that Russians had hacked the DNC. What this post is about is the added statement that “… we need to aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks. I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office”. The statement then says “America’s safety and security will be my number one priority”. If security is his number one priority, why did it take until now to appoint a special team, after weeks of public hassle with the US intelligence and security services? He had also blamed the DNC attacks on the DNC’s own poor security, rather than assigning the responsibility to the government.
The US government intelligence, and government and private cybersecurity services have been at this for decades. As I pointed out in my last post, President Obama has proposed $19 billion for the Cybersecurity National Action Plan for 2017, an increase of 35% over last year’s spending. Will Trump go along with this increase, and even for the standard plan itself? Does he really need an ad hoc team of so far unknowns to come up in only 90 days with something new to replace a plan that has been studied in detail for years, probably by all of our security agencies? Isn’t that, in fact, a way to bring total chaos to a well-studied cybersecurity plan?
In Trump’s staff statement about the team, there is no government linkage implied with any present intelligence agency, or any relevant Cabinet Department, or any Congressional Security or Oversight committee to supervise and report to. In the statement, the results of this team will also not be made available to the public. This sounds like Trump is setting up his own private security agency, reportable to nobody but himself, and with no budget supervision or even oversight. I imagine it can be done under the aegis of just a White House staff team.
Here are my fears, though, based on what Trump has said, or promised, or suggested during his campaign or after his election. As usual, Trump may appoint a team of contrarians. First of all, they may protect Russia, at all costs. Then they may focus on erasing cyberprotection or privacy protection for all Americans, or maybe just a certain class of Americans. During the campaign, Trump wanted Apple and therefore all cell phone companies to allow government to access all of their devices, even by police at the local level, even for small suspected crimes, without any stated search warrant oversight. Just as gun owners value their privacy rights, cell phone owners value their privacy. During the campaign, Trump said he wanted to monitor all Muslims. He also wanted to track all US visitors, in order to deport those who overstayed their visas. Cyber tracking is the easiest way to do these tasks. Lately, his transition team wanted to see all of the emails of climate-science-associated members of the Department of Energy. During the campaign, he publicly asked Russia to release all of Clinton’s missing emails that they had hacked (yet he still denies Russian hacking). He still maintains that the earlier hacking of climate scientists’ emails revealed a horrendous scandal, yet they were cleared by many investigations. To my knowledge, Trump has never faulted any of the hackers, or those who published the hacks, or the conservatives who feasted on them.
Trump’s nominee for Attorney General is Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He strongly supported the USA Patriot Act, defended warrantless wiretapping, and argued against changing surveillance laws after Snowden, according to the NY Times. He also shares Trump’s incorrect views that immigrants take welfare and desirable jobs, and are criminals.
Of course, these are just nightmarish speculations on my part, and in no way, am I actually impugning the integrity of our next President. Besides, Kellyanne could easily explain away all of these statements, which he never said anyway.