Edgar on Breaking Global Cyber News: Russia’s Internet Research Agency to the Nunes Memos

Tim Edgar, an Executive Master in Cybersecurity (EMCS) program director and visiting fellow at Brown’s Watson Institute, shared his views on TV, radio, and print over the last couple of weeks regarding breaking news. According to a recent Providence Journal article, Edgar’s opinions are highly sought after because:

“You are unlikely to find a more qualified individual to discuss cybersecurity, government surveillance and personal privacy than Timothy Edgar… (He) joined the American Civil Liberties Union… then worked… advising the director of national intelligence during George W. Bush’s administration… (and) later advised President Barack Obama. Yes, highly credentialed — and an expert and scholar, not a partisan.”

On Russia’s Internet Research Agency

Providing nuance where others might see only black-or-white, in his recent Lawfare publication, Indicting Hackers Made China Behave, But Russia Will Be Harder, Edgar pointed out the differences between the US indictment of Chinese hackers in 2014, which was successfully resolved, and its recent indictments against Russia’s Internet Research Agency.

First he noted the greater danger of the Russian hack aimed at undermining America’s sovereignty and democratic institutions, versus the Chinese hack focused on intercepting intellectual property. Second, Edgar was skeptical about a successful resolution of the indictment because of America’s potential hypocrisy in the case: The US is accusing the Russians of actions that we also engage in, namely covert cyber actions to influence political conditions abroad. Edgar wrote,

“Russia can make the case that the activities of the Internet Research Agency are not so far from what the U.S. does itself. The U.S. might argue that there is a difference between influencing political conditions in authoritarian countries (often to support democratic elements in closed societies) and subverting the democratic process of a stable and free society—but while that is certainly true, it may not be of much use in articulating a broader principle of non-interference that would serve U.S. goals.”

He went on to say about the indictment that he doubts it will result in jail convictions, but on the bright side,

“It sends a warning—not to Putin, but to Americans….  (who) can—and must—do a whole lot more to defend ourselves against foreign interference in our elections.  We can start by 1) encrypting our communications and data; 2) securing our election infrastructure; and 3) working with social media companies to combat “fake news” by exposing state-sponsored trolls.”

On the larger Russia investigation

Quoted in the news regarding the larger Russia investigation, Edgar said,

“I think it’s fairly weak to say that the entire investigation is just a witch hunt or it’s just people in the ‘Deep State’ who dislike Trump. I think that’s a huge stretch.”

“I do think there are legitimate civil liberties issues in this foreign intelligence investigation… We don’t necessarily trust the government to always get it right when it comes to these very intrusive powers… (We) shouldn’t dismiss it just because we don’t like Trump or we think they’re trying to distract us from the main focus of the investigation.”

On the Nunes Memo

On the media coverage of the Nunes memo, Edgar commented,

“It’s hard sometimes for people in our polarized media environment to have two ideas in their head at the same time. One idea is it’s a very serious matter: the Russian interference in our political process in 2016. It appears that the president is not taking it seriously and that’s really troubling.”

“And at the same time, it might be the case that there might be legitimate questions to be asked about the investigation. You can believe all of these things at the same time, but the media wants to put us in one camp or another. Either we’re on the side of Trump or we’re on the side of the ‘Deep State,’ and I don’t think that should be the way that we, as Americans, look at the most intrusive surveillance authorities.”

Edgar on this news:

Lawfare: Indicting Hackers Made China Behave, But Russia Will Be Harder

The Providence Journal:  Inside Story: Nunes memo puts spotlight on surveillance and privacy

Fox Providence:  Looking beyond the memos and side stories on State of Mind

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