An interesting thing happened after the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church massacre in South Carolina — politicians and their willing media accomplices turned the actions of Dylann Roof into a weird, week-long debate on the Confederate flag. As The Joker might say: “It’s all part of the plan.” It’s much easier to talk about the Confederate flag than a U.S. cybersecurity failure of epic proportions.
CNN reported Monday:
Washington — The personal data of an estimated 18 million current, former and prospective federal employees were affected by a cyber breach at the Office of Personnel Management – more than four times the 4.2 million the agency has publicly acknowledged. The number is expected to grow, according to U.S. officials briefed on the investigation.
FBI Director James Comey gave the 18 million estimate in a closed-door briefing to Senators in recent weeks, using the OPM’s own internal data, according to U.S. officials briefed on the matter. Those affected could include people who applied for government jobs, but never actually ended up working for the government. …
Katherine Archuleta, who leads OPM, is beginning to face heat for her agency’s failure to protect key national security data — highly prized by foreign intelligence agencies — as well as for how slowly the agency has provided information.
This is bad. Really bad. Really, really, really bad. (Should I go for the quadruple toe loop?) And yet, for whatever reason, cable news and social media have focused relentlessly on the Confederate flag — for days.
The message is simple: Look at the shiny thing over here and ignore that (likely) act of war over in the corner.
When does a cybersecurity breach become an act of war? When do the actions of state-sponsored hackers require the U.S. president to respond with force? Those are incredibly difficult questions to answer, but they demand to be asked after a world power steals the personal data on 18 million federal employees.
Politico spoke with ex-NSA senior counsel member Joel Brenner on the OPM hack. Here is what he had to say June 12:
The hackers are believed to have obtained data from a security intake form known as a Standard Form-86, which includes details such as financial trouble, past convictions, drug use and close relationships with citizens of other countries. The form is used for background checks of current, former and prospective federal employees.
“This is crown jewels material … a gold mine for a foreign intelligence service,” said Joel Brenner, a former NSA senior counsel.
The damage that has been done to U.S. national security because of this breach is enormous. Heads must roll in very public fashion, but to date there has essentially been silence on the part of President Obama and all of Congress.
Think of how bad the situation must truly be if Republicans have found themselves with a collective case of laryngitis.
If hordes of Chinese spies were found to be repelling into government buildings late one Saturday night, then there would be no question that a tough response was required. If video showed up of those same exact spies successfully taking off with backpacks filled with sensitive data, then there would be no choice but to cover the story. For some reason, however, there seems to be the belief that if it happens in cyberspace then it never happened.
Do not buy into the Confederate flag debate. You are being misdirected. You are being played for fools. A cyberattack that should define the presidency of Mr. Obama happened on his watch, and elected officials of all stripes are doing their best to change the subject.
Politicians in Washington, D.C. have one responsibility that trumps all others — to protect the American people — and they failed. Miserably. Because of that, they now want U.S. citizens focused on the failures of our forefathers. I encourage you not to take part in this pitiful charade.