Senior U.S. intelligence officials face questions at a Senate hearing that will be dominated by the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the presidential election to help Donald Trump win. The Armed Services Committee’s cyber threats hearing on Thursday comes a day before the president-elect is to be briefed by the CIA and FBI directors — along with the director of national intelligence — on the investigation into Russia’s alleged hacking efforts. Trump has been deeply critical of their findings, even appearing to back controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s contention that Russia did not provide him with hacked Democratic emails. The committee’s session is the first in a series aimed at investigating purported Russian cyber-attacks against U.S. interests and developing defenses sturdy enough to blunt future intrusions. “We will obviously be talking about the hacking, but the main thing is the whole issue of cybersecurity,” the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said ahead of the hearing. “Right now we have no policy, no strategy to counter cyberattacks.”
U.S. intelligence agencies obtained what they considered to be conclusive evidence after the November election that Russia provided hacked material from the Democratic National Committee to WikiLeaks through a third party, three U.S. officials said on Wednesday. U.S. officials had concluded months earlier that Russian intelligence agencies had directed the hacking, but had been less certain that they could prove Russia also had controlled the release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The timing of the additional intelligence is important because U.S. President Barack Obama has faced criticism from his own party over why it took his administration months to respond to the cyber attack. U.S. Senate and House leaders, including prominent Republicans, have also called for an inquiry. At the same time, President-elect Donald Trump has questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia tried to help his candidacy and hurt Clinton’s. Russia has denied the hacking allegations.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said that during the Kentucky General Assembly, which began Tuesday, she will push for early voting and legislation to make it easier for veteran-owned businesses to get started. “When I took office, I promised Kentuckians that I would bring commonsense changes and reforms to the Secretary of State’s office—that I would make it easier to do business with government and tear down barriers to the ballot box—and, together, we are making strides,” Grimes said. “In this session, I’ll continue to keep that promise.” Grimes’ legislative campaign for early in-person absentee voting began last year and won bipartisan support, including the endorsement of Tre Hargett, the Republican Secretary of State of Tennessee. He traveled to Frankfort to offer his testimony on the legislation. Grimes’ proposal calls for allowing all Kentucky voters to cast ballots early in-person without an excuse during their county’s in-person absentee voting window. Early voting is offered in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
Secretary of State Jason Kander admonished the Republican dominated General Assembly Wednesday over legislation passed last year requiring voters to provide a photo ID before they can cast a ballot. House Republicans responded by ditching a planned resolution that would have thanked Kander for his years of service. Kander, a Kansas City Democrat, has long opposed voter ID legislation, arguing that it serves no purpose and yet could disenfranchise certain voters. After more than a decade of trying, GOP lawmakers successfully approved voter ID legislation last year, and a voter ID constitutional amendment was approved by voters in November. In a speech to the Missouri House Wednesday, Kander said he’s heard that lawmakers are considering stiffening the voter ID law. He warned against taking such actions.
Three federal judges on Wednesday denied a request by state lawmakers to postpone their earlier order requiring new state House and state Senate districts be drawn and elections be held this year. The judges ruled last August that lawmakers had relied too heavily on race when they drew 28 legislative districts in 2011, but they said there wasn’t enough time to rectify the situation before the November elections. So, they later ordered lawmakers to redraw the districts by March 15 and hold primaries in the summer and a special general election in the fall. Lawmakers have appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they also filed a motion with the three-judge panel to stay their decision, arguing that voters chose their legislators to serve for the next two years and that the state shouldn’t have to invest resources in a special election.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich wants to redesign how Ohio draws its congressional boundaries through an unusual vehicle: the new state budget to be rolled out late this month. While voters in 2015 overwhelmingly approved a ballot issue enacting a new method to draw state legislative districts to reduce gerrymandering and increase political competitiveness, the recrafting of U.S. House districts has languished. The second-term Republican said he will ask majority GOP lawmakers to “do the same thing as done with legislative districts” in adjusting a House-redistricting scheme that has helped Republicans achieve a 12-4 majority with Democrats restricted to four “can’t-lose” districts. “They were going to drop it out as not germane (to the state budget),” Kasich said this afternoon in an apparent reference to legislative leaders. “If they want to drop it out as not germane, let them do it.”
The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday welcomed a political agreement in Congo calling for President Joseph Kabila to leave power after an election by the end of the year and urged “swift implementation.” The council said in a presidential statement that it was encouraged “by the spirit of flexibility and compromise demonstrated by Congolese political leaders” in reaching the agreement. Council members stressed the importance of the government and its partners taking “all necessary steps to accelerate preparations for the elections without further delays, within the timeframe.”
The losers in Haiti’s presidential election insisted Wednesday they will not recognise political neophyte Jovenel Moise as the winner, calling the officially declared result a political coup. But international organisations welcomed the conclusion of a tortuously long voting process that began in October 2015 and paralysed political life in this unstable Caribbean nation that is the poorest in the Americas. Moise was declared winner of the November 20 first round Tuesday night by the Provisional Electoral Council, with 55.6 percent of the votes. To check against fraud — the reason for the scrapping of the election the first time Haiti tried in 2015 — the council said right after the election that 12 percent of the ballots must be verified. After a week of checking, the council said there was no signficant fraud.
The voting age is likely to be lowered to 18 for the 2017 presidential election. The New Conservative Party for Reform (NCPR), created by lawmakers who left the Saenuri Party, said Wednesday that it will seek to lower the voting age from 19 to 18 and apply it to the next election. With all three opposition parties supporting an increase in the number of eligible voters, there is a high possibility that the Election Law could be revised during an extraordinary session of the National Assembly in January. If revised, those who are 18, currently high school students, will be able to vote in the presidential election, which could take place earlier than scheduled.
United Kingdom: Online voting could leave British elections vulnerable to hacking, former MI6 head warns | The Independent
Adopting electronic voting systems could leave British elections vulnerable to cyber attack by other countries, the former head of MI6 has said. Sir John Sawers said traditional pencil and paper approaches to voting were “actually much more secure” – following allegations that the recent US presidential election was subject to hacking. “The more things that go online, the more susceptible you are to cyber attacks,” Sir John, who stepped down in 2014, said. “We need to have systems which are robust,” he said in an interview for the BBC documentary The New World: Axis of Power. “The only trouble is, the younger generation of people expect to be able to do things remotely and through electronic devices. “Bizarrely the stubby pencil and piece of paper that you put your cross on in the ballot box is actually much more secure than anything which is electronic.”