The United States will continue to suffer increasingly damaging cyber attacks against both government and private sector networks as long as there is no significant response, according to a recent U.S. intelligence community assessment.
Disclosure of the intelligence assessment, an analytical consensus of 16 U.S. spy agencies, comes as the Obama administration is debating how to respond to a major cyber attack against the Office of Personnel Management. Sensitive records on 22.1 million federal workers, including millions cleared for access to secrets, were stolen by hackers linked to China’s government.
U.S. officials familiar with the classified cyber assessment discussed its central conclusion but did not provide details.
Spokesmen for the White House and office of the director of national intelligence declined to comment.
Recent comments by President Obama and senior military and security officials, however, reflect the intelligence assessment.
Obama said during a summit in Germany June 8 that he would not disclose who conducted the OPM hack. But he said such attacks would continue.
“We have known for a long time that there are significant vulnerabilities and that these vulnerabilities are gonna accelerate as time goes by, both in systems within government and within the private sector,” the president said.
Last week, Adm. Mike Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, said the increase in state-sponsored cyber attacks is partly the result of a perception that “there’s not a significant price to pay” for such attacks.
Privately, administration officials said the assessment appears to be an indirect criticism of the administration’s approach to cyber attacks that has emphasized diplomatic and law enforcement measures instead of counter-cyber attacks.
“The administration is expecting more attacks because they’re unwilling to do anything,” said one official. “They’re preparing for more attacks because we’re failing to deter and defend against them.”
Intelligence and cyber security experts agreed with the assessment that weak U.S. responses are encouraging more cyber attacks.
“Until we redefine warfare in the age of information, we will continue to be viciously and dangerously attacked with no consequences for those attackers,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, a former Defense Intelligence Agency director.
“The extraordinary intellectual theft ongoing across the U.S.’s cyber critical infrastructure has the potential to shut down massive components of our nation’s capabilities, such as health care, energy and communications systems. This alone should scare the heck out of everyone.”
James Lewis, a cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed. Lewis said the defensive approach that emphasizes closing vulnerabilities to cyber attacks is not working.
“Unless we punch back, we will continue to get hit,” Lewis said.
Lewis says that conducting retaliatory cyber strikes without starting a war is difficult but not impossible.
“There are a lot of ways to do this – leaking some party leader’s bank account could be a good start,” Lewis said. “Many people think a cyber response is the best way to signal where the lines are the other side should not cross.”
“We’re all coming to the same place – that a defensive orientation doesn’t work,” he added.
Rogers, the Cyber Command chief who has stated in the past that he favors more aggressive U.S. responses, acknowledged that the U.S. response to the OPM hack has been muted compared to the government’s highly-public response to North Korea’s damaging cyber attack in November against Sony Pictures Entertainment. The Sony hack was a failed bid by the North Koreans to derail the release of a comedy film critical of dictator Kim Jong Un.
Major incidents in recent months include the Sony attack; cyber attacks against the health care provider Anthem that compromised the records of some 80 million people; attacks against State Department and White House networks from suspected Russian government-linked hackers; the OPM hacking; and an Iranian-backed cyber attack against the Sands casino in Las Vegas.
Asked about the increase in state-sponsored attacks, Rogers said during a security conference in Colorado that one factor has been a lack of response.
Rogers earlier in congressional testimony has suggested a more muscular cyber policy that would include demonstrations and threats of retaliatory cyber attacks against hackers in a bid to create deterrence similar to the Cold War-era strategic nuclear deterrence.
In addition to more capable hackers, “you’ve got a perception, I believe, that to date there is little price to pay for engaging in some pretty aggressive behaviors,” Rogers aid.
“Whether it’s stealing intellectual property; whether it’s getting in and destroying things as we saw in the Sony attack; whether it’s going after large masses of data – OPM being the most recent but go back to the summer of ’14 and we saw a successful penetration of a large health insurance company and the extraction of most of the medical records and personal data information that they had.”
Nation states are only one part of the threat. Criminal groups also are conducting large-scale cyber attacks, Rogers said.
In November, Rogers said he argued for going public in naming North Korea’s communist regime for the Sony hack and having the president make a public statement that Pyongyang would pay a price.
Rogers said some officials in the administration favored a less public response to the Sony case.
“So one of my concerns was this time it was a movie,” Rogers said. “What if next time a nation state, a group, an individual, an actor decides I don’t like the U.S. policy, I don’t like a U.S. product, I don’t agree with this particular position taken by a company, or taken by an individual. If we start down this road, this is not a good one for us as a nation.”
Rogers said he argued strongly that “we cannot pretend that this did not happen,” and that the attack had to be linked to North Korea directly.
“My concern was if we do nothing, then one of the potential unintended consequences of this could be does this send a signal to other nation states, other groups, other actors that this kind of behavior [is okay] and that you can do this without generating any kind of response,” Rogers said.
On not naming the Chinese for the OPM hack, Rogers appears to have lost out during the administration’s debate on naming the Chinese.
“OPM is an ongoing issue,” Rogers said, adding that he would not discuss the specifics of internal discussions.
“But I would acknowledge, hey, to date the response to OPM, there’s a thought process and I’m the first to acknowledge to date we have to take a different approach.”
Asked if he agreed with doing nothing about the OPM response, Rogers suggested some action might be forthcoming.
“Just because you’re not reading something in the media does not mean that there’s not things ongoing,” he said. “So I would argue, let’s step back and see how this plays out a little bit.”
He defended the more public U.S. response to the Sony hack that included limited sanctions against North Korean agencies and officials, by noting that to date no similar cyber attacks by Pyongyang have been conducted.
Bleeding cash, the Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI) announced Friday that Louisiana’s Obamacare health insurance co-op will be closing its doors by the end of 2015.
It will be the second collapse of an Obamacare health care co-op this year and the third since the Obama administration rolled them out in 2012 as a competitor to commercial health insurance companies.
From the beginning, the Louisiana co-op was fraught with high-paid consultants who were not even from Louisiana, but Georgia. It also suffered from an apparent conflict of interest. George Cromer, its CEO, simultaneously served the Louisiana House of Representatives as chairman of that legislative body’s insurance committee.
Roughly 18 months into its existence, in September 2012, the Louisiana co-op received $66 million from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. By 2014, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners reported that the co-op had burned through half of its cash and suffered a net operating loss of $23 million.
AM Best, the insurance rating company, reported in the third quarter of 2014 that the Louisiana co-op’s indebtedness was 198 percent, among the worst performing Obamacare nonprofits in the nation.
“The onerous burdens of Obamacare have shocked health insurance markets and caused instability in pricing and predictability, and as a result, we’ve seen premiums spike upward,” Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon wrote in a press statement July 24 when he announced closure plans for the co-op.
“Start-ups in insurance, especially health insurance, are always a tough row to hoe. Obamacare has made that even more difficult,” the commissioner noted in a press release.
The LDI’s Office of Financial Solvency will be examining the financial issues that led to its decision to close, and the commissioner has said that the department is “on-site at the co-op.”
The Louisiana Health co-op began with controversy over Terry Shilling, its first CEO. Shilling arranged a lavish contract with his own Atlanta-based consulting firm, Beam Partners, LLC, an arrangement approved by federal Obamacare CMS officials.
Federal officials also approved Shilling as original founder and “interim CEO” for the co-op, even though in 1998, the Securities and Exchange Commission sanctioned him for insider trading as a health executive. Shilling’s consulting firm received more than $3 million from the co-op in 2013 for “health plan development,” according to its IRS Form 990 filing.
Louisiana insurance documents obtained by the Washington Examiner in August 2013 showed that Beam would receive a separate $4 million contract from the start-up co-op. On top of the contract, the Atlanta firm would receive a 20 percent “performance fee,” according to the documents. Finally, Beam additionally reaped a “benefit payment services” that began at $66,667 per month in 2013, culminating in $72,917 in 2016, according to Louisiana co-op insurance filing documents.
Separate from the preferential contract with Shilling, the co-op represented a potential political conflict of interest. After Shilling’s relationship with the co-op went public, the Atlanta businessman stepped down as interim CEO, to be replaced by Louisiana Rep. George Cromer.
Cromer, a Republican, also was the chairman of the Louisiana House committee on health insurance. He did not step down from the position after assuming the co-op post.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Cromer’s office, but has yet to receive a response.
The Louisiana co-op is not the first to fold.
In February, the Iowa Insurance Department assumed receivership and closed the doors of Co-Opportunity Health, an Obamacare co-op that served more than 100,000 customers in Iowa and Nebraska. Co-Opportunity had a loss ratio of 140, which meant that for every dollar it received in premiums, it had to pay out $1.40 in benefits.
The first failure occurred in 2013, when the Vermont Insurance Commissioner refused to grant a license to a new Obamacare health co-op.
The Commissioner refused to license the co-op because the president had steered as much as $500,000 of the co-op’s money to his own firm. CMS had approved the loan to the Vermont co-op despite the conflict of interest.
She also said the co-op’s math was inadequate and failed to meet the state’s financial standards.
But you can keep your doctor!
Thirty-four percent fewer healthcare providers are available to Obamacare patients – backing up “anecdotal reports that exchange networks contain fewer providers than traditional commercial plans,” a new report says.
According to an analysis by Avalere Health, the Washington-based advisory firm, the Obamacare networks offer an average of 42 percent fewer heart and cancer doctors – along with 24 percent fewer hospitals and 32 percent fewer primary care physicians for patients to choose from.
But most importantly, the Affordable Care Act’s restrictions on out-of-pocket costs by patients do not apply to healthcare services outside the plan’s network.
Behind a garden modeled on Monet’s, Jeb Bush addressed a lawn-full of chief executives and hedge-fund managers at an East Hampton, New York, estate Saturday morning. While the candidate is no stranger to courting wealthy donors, this time was different: about half the attendees were Democrats.
“This guy sells well,” said Kenneth Lipper, the money manager and registered Democrat who hosted the event, after Bush left. Virtually the only one who left without writing a check, Lipper said, was a buck deer that wandered past the group assembled on the wooded grounds.
The wealthiest donors are playing an unprecedented role in the early stages of the 2016 race. For the first time ever, most candidates are raising more money through super-PACs, which can accept donations of up to $1 million or more, than through the traditional campaign accounts that are capped at $2,700 per donor.
No one has raised as much in this new environment as Bush, who had amassed about $103 million in his super-PAC and another $11 million for his campaign by the end of June. The Lipper event shows how widely Bush is ranging in his quest for donors.
The race for money adds to the importance of places like the Hamptons, Wall Street’s oceanside playground, where Lipper remarked that it’s become fashionable to spend more than $100 million on a vacation home. The entire annual income for the median U.S. household – $50,000 – wouldn’t cover more than 900 of the summer rentals here listed on one brokerage’s website.
After answering questions for an hour at Lipper’s event, Bush left for two more gatherings at a pair of mansions near the beach.
“People with money like him,” said Andrew Sabin, 69, a top local Republican fundraiser and a co-host of one of the Bush events. “I’m sure there’s a lot of poor people that like him too. It so happens there’s not a lot of poor people in the Hamptons.”
Bush’s schedule took him to the six-bedroom beachside mansion of Clifford Sobel, a former ambassador and entrepreneur, who served crab cakes and bruschetta. Then there were cocktails at the home of Emil Henry, a former Treasury official and now the CEO of an infrastructure fund.
The Bush campaign wouldn’t comment on the events or say how much was raised, but Lipper said his event alone raised about $230,000.
Over a salad on the deck at the South Fork Country Club prior to attending two of the fundraisers, Sabin said donors appreciate the way Bush’s staff keeps in touch.
“We get a rundown every week – they’re very transparent,” said Sabin, who runs a precious-metals refining business with offices from China to Dubai. “Some guys take your money, you don’t know what they’re talking about until you read it in the newspaper.”
During a course of the lunch with his girlfriend, Kathy Qian, Sabin passed out copies of a magazine that features him and his 60-foot fishing boat, Above the Ground; said he gave to 256 charities; and mentioned the climate-change center he created at Columbia Law School (“a big one”). An ardent environmentalist, Sabin said he’s encouraging Bush to become “the Teddy Roosevelt of this century.” He said he’s indifferent to the rise of big money in politics.
“I believe in free enterprise,” Sabin said. “You earned that money, you can do what you want with it. I don’t have a problem with it at all.”
In some ways, the Hamptons are Hillary Clinton territory. The Democratic candidate and her husband have often rented summer homes here, and it’s popular with movie stars and entertainers who tilt liberal. Suffolk County favored Democrats in the last three presidential races.
But Lipper estimated that the crowd of about 70 at his event was almost evenly split between the parties, and virtually every one of them donated to Bush. Lipper, 74, said he introduced Bush as the candidate who will “bring unity and civility to the process.” He was impressed when Bush started his visit by introducing himself to Lipper’s kitchen staff.
Lipper’s career in finance includes creating the Lipper & Co. investment management firm and advising Oliver Stone on the film Wall Street. He was also a key fundraiser for New York City Mayor Ed Koch, and later served in his administration.
Despite the opulent surroundings, the Hamptons hosts couldn’t spend much on food and drink without running up against limits on in-kind campaign contributions, Lipper said. So he limited his expenses to about $2,000. That meant a simple brunch of berries and melon, mini-bagels, and cheese quiche.
“It was kind of spartan, he said, “but it was fine.”
Forty to fifty Americans are fighting with Kurdish forces against ISIS –
Retired U.S. Marine Jordan Matson joined the YPG Kurdish fighters to fight ISIS in September 2014.
Jordan told Greta Van Susteren in February that there are 40-50 Americans fighting with Kurdish forces against ISIS.
He also said the Kurds are very hospitable to Christians and Yazidis.
British ex-soldiers are also fighting with Kurdish forces against the Islamic State.
James Hughes, 26, and Jamie Read, 24, are fighting alongside other foreign volunteers with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.
This week Obama gave a green light to Turkey to bomb the Kurds.
Msg. to the American people and the US gov. : Is this a penalty because we fought against ISIS instead of the world ?
10:45 PM – 25 Jul 2015
Turkish jets struck camps belonging to Kurdish militants in northern Iraq this weekend. This was Turkey’s first strike on the Kurds since a 2013 peace deal.
Americans and British soldiers are fighting with Kurds against ISIS.
After the nuclear deal between Iran and US
Shiite militias (#PMF) = Forces to protect human rights.
9:40 PM – 25 Jul 2015
No Friends but the Mountains: The Fate of the Kurds
White House calls Kurdish force a terrorist group.
5:19 AM – 26 Jul 2015