US President Donald Trump climbs to golf cart number 45 as he plays golf at the Trump National Golf Club on Dec.13. Photo / Getty
There have been many chaotic and convoluted power struggles during the Trump administration, but one of the strangest has occurred in its final days.
It goes like this.
The two houses of Congress have passed an annual defense policy bill covering US $ 740 billion in military spending.
This year, it includes dozens of provisions to support US cyber defense, including the creation of a national cyber director to coordinate the government’s response to digital attacks – a nod to a year that has seen a sharp spike in cyber espionage, including sweeping “SolarWinds” attacks on US government agencies and companies. private sector that is still ongoing.
US authorities suspect Russian hackers are behind the current attack, which has been labeled a “major risk” to public and private networks, as the perpetrators exploited a vulnerability in security software created by Texas-based SolarWinds to infiltrate computer systems.
Although the attack appears to be focused on US targets, our government’s Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert NZ) has issued it urgent advice that each local server protected by SolarWinds Orion software must be isolated until it is patchable, and passwords changed.
So New Zealand – has left behind Australia and others in strengthening cyber defenses amid the onslaught of attacks in 2020 – will benefit from US efforts to undo SolarWinds’ compromise efforts.
On the face of many things, you might think any US President would support – or even support – such an effort.
But US President Donald Trump is now threatening to veto a $ 740 billion defense bill, with his new cyber measures – for lacking the provisions he’s asked for on a completely unrelated topic to suppress major social media platforms.
Back in May, Twitter and Facebook began labeling some of Trump’s social media posts, stating that they violated their community policies by glorifying violence or, in other cases, that they made allegations about voter mail-in fraud and other related topics. . in a dispute.
Angry, Trump signed An Executive Order directing the Federal Communications Commission to take steps that would undermine the major legal shields for social media companies. Specifically, the 1996 law, Section 230 of the Communications Compliance Act, which basically prohibits people from suing “interactive computer service” providers for defamation if users post defamatory messages on their platforms because they are not considered traditional publishers. .
Trump gave the FCC two months to carry out its orders, but those efforts were unsuccessful. Law scholars and industry experts are not clear what the President really wants in his muddy words. However, the FCC is an independent body that is not subject to its control, and does not have powers to go beyond existing laws.
Hence, the President’s last-ditch attempts to cover Facebook and Twitter with “riders” on the Defense Bill, and his threat to use his powers to veto the legislation landed on his desk without such provisions.
The US president does have the power to veto (kill) certain recently passed laws.
But Congress can, in turn, bypass its veto by a two-thirds majority.
And it looks like that’s what happened here.
The defense bill has bipartisan support and is passed by large majorities in the House of Representatives (335 to 78) and the Senate (84 to 13).
So far, Republicans have given no indication that they will bow to Trump’s wishes and add any social media provisions he wants, so the final days of his administration could leave him suffering the shame of his excessive veto.
Meanwhile, Trump has been trying to play down SolarWinds’ attacks, contradicting Minister of Foreign Affairs himself. He also suggested, without any evidence, that China was behind the attacks, not Russia.
“This cyber attack most likely carried out by Russia highlights the glaring vulnerabilities of our federal cybersecurity system,” said Susan Collins, Republican senator from Maine, Friday.
“The president must immediately sign the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act], not only to safeguard our military strength but also because it contains significant cyber security provisions which will help thwart future attacks, “he added.
If Trump vetoed the law, it would continue Trump’s last questionable record of cyber defense.
Cyber security boss fired
On November 18, he was fired Christopher Krebs, respected director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) for making “inaccurate” claims about the election.
CISA issued a statement rejecting Trump’s claims that large numbers of the dead could vote or that someone could change the results without detection.
The 2020 elections are, “the safest in American history,” said Krebbs.
Democrat Adam Schiff said Trump’s move to fire Krebbs was “sad and predictable from a president who views the truth as his enemy.”