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Liz Peek: Obama’s legacy will be that he allowed Russia to ‘sow discord’ in the US

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In a recent tweet, President Trump asked: “Why didn’t Obama do something about the (Russian) meddling?” It’s a good question, especially since, as President Trump pointed out, “all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama administration.”

The answer to President Trump’s question is that over the course of eight years the Obama administration neglected to take cybersecurity seriously, even though in 2013 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a “coming (cyber) Pearl Harbor.”

Despite repeated intrusions, and though independent agencies concluded that our defenses against hackers were woefully inadequate, the Obama White House made only cosmetic attempts to protect our vital agencies and infrastructure. When this lack of preparedness led to damaging virtual break-ins, President Obama declined to confront the bad actors trying to steal our secrets.

This came in spite of President Obama’s easy access to Silicon Valley. The only time the White House called in some help from tech titans was when the ObamaCare rollout crashed, embarrassing the president. Not when the Chinese invaded the White House computer network in 2012 or when North Korea penetrated Sony’s systems; the big guns were summoned only when the president’s legacy program teetered on the brink of collapse.

In 2014 then-Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who served on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, published a report on the dangerous lapses in the government’s cyber preparedness, based on 40 reports and audits, including from the Government Accountability Office.

Federal agencies, Coburn reported, had neglected to implement even the most basic safeguards, such as resetting passwords or downloading software updates.

The report contained details of a hack of our Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for instance, in which data on the country’s 85,000 dams was stolen from the unprotected computers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The information included estimates of the potential death counts that would result from the failures of individual dams.

The most significant intrusion during President Obama’s two terms was the 2015 penetration of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in which sensitive information (Social Security numbers, birth dates, health histories, fingerprints) on 22 million people – many with top security clearances – was stolen.

Not only did the White House allow the break-in to occur – officials there lied about the severity of the attack. OPM officials initially told the Wall Street Journal that no sensitive data had been stolen, though the FBI had informed them otherwise. The Journal reported that the day OPM made that dishonest claim, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano emailed to tell friends at the University of California that people who had gone through a security clearance were at risk. She had apparently received a heads-up.

That theft was said to have been the work of the Chinese.

The OPM breach was not unique. During the Obama years the Pentagon, the CIA, the Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security and the National Nuclear Security Administration were all hacked. 

After the OPM attack, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a security conference: “Until such time as we can create both the substance and the psychology of deterrence, this is going to go on.” He argued that “unintended consequences and other related policy issues” made creating such deterrents difficult.

In other words, the Obama White House did nothing when China hacked the OPM, or when North Korea invaded Sony because there were overarching political considerations. Think climate accord and a nuclear stand-down.

But it was the White House’s tolerance of Russian intrusions that in retrospect was the most dangerous action. In 2013 Russia took advantage of a Microsoft glitch to hack into NATO’s computer systems, the new Ukrainian government and several European Union agencies. President Obama did nothing to respond to this aggression, emboldening Moscow.

Over the next two years Russian agents invaded the State Department and ultimately penetrated not only the White House but also the Pentagon. The thefts of data were not as public as the plundering of OPM by the Chinese; the Russians appeared to be accumulating virtual weapons.

In late 2015, the FBI warned the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that Russian hackers had breached its computers. A few months later the same group of Russians ensnared John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, harvesting his emails.

The Russians sat on their stolen material until a few weeks before the Democratic National Convention, when they then forwarded the hacked emails from the DNC to Wikileaks. The resulting uproar, which cost DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz her job, was only the beginning, as we now know.

Because President Obama was beholden to China for agreeing to join the Paris Climate Accord and because he needed both Russia and China to sign off on the Iran nuclear deal, he chose not to push back against their criminal invasions of our private and public institutions. As Luke Thompson has argued in the National Review, this lack of confrontation only encouraged more bad behavior.

Our country has been wracked by discord for more than a year, and the Trump presidency has been severely weakened by charges that his team colluded with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton. There has been no evidence of such behavior, but the investigation goes on, dividing the nation and undermining Americans’ confidence in our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as well as our president.

The Justice Department has concluded that the Russians wanted to “sow discord” in the United States. This will be Obama’s legacy: he allowed them to do so.

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‘Pervasive racism’ blamed for unequal treatment of black and Asian war casualties | UK News

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Up to 350,000 predominantly black and Asian service personnel have not been formally remembered in the same way as their white comrades.

An investigation has blamed “pervasive racism” for the failure to properly commemorate at least 116,000 but up to 350,000 people who died fighting for the British Empire.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has apologised and vowed to act immediately to correct the situation.

The report, obtained by the PA news agency and due to be published in full later today, found that the casualties – mainly from the First World War – were “not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all”.

Most of them were commemorated by memorials that did not carry their names.

An estimated 45,000 to 54,000 Asian and African casualties were also “commemorated unequally”.

This meant some were commemorated collectively on memorials – unlike those in Europe – and others who were missing were only recorded in registers, rather than on stone.

The job of commemorating the war dead belongs to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, originally named the Imperial War Graves Commission.

The report was compiled by a special committee, established by the CWGC in 2019 after a critical documentary about the issue.

According to the report, the failure to properly commemorate the individuals was “influenced by a scarcity of information, errors inherited from other organisations and the opinions of colonial administrators”.

“Underpinning all these decisions, however, were the entrenched prejudices, preconceptions and pervasive racism of contemporary imperial attitudes,” it added.

The report gave the example of a 1923 communication between FG Guggisberg, the governor of what is now Ghana, and the commission’s Arthur Browne.

The governor had said “the average native of the Gold Coast would not understand or appreciate a headstone,” as he argued for collective memorials.

Mr Browne’s response showed “what he may have considered foresight, but one that was explicitly framed by contemporary racial prejudice”, according to the report.

He had said: “In perhaps two or three hundred years’ time, when the native population had reached a higher stage of civilisation, they might then be glad to see that headstones had been erected on the native graves and that the native soldiers had received precisely the same treatment as their white comrades.”

In its response to the report, the CWGC said it “acknowledges that the commission failed to fully carry out its responsibilities at the time and accepts the findings and failings identified in this report and we apologise unreservedly for them”.

CWGC director general Claire Horton said: “The events of a century ago were wrong then and are wrong now.

“We recognise the wrongs of the past and are deeply sorry and will be acting immediately to correct them.”

David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, said: “No apology can ever make up for the indignity suffered by the unremembered.

“However, this apology does offer the opportunity for us as a nation to work through this ugly part of our history – and properly pay our respects to every soldier who has sacrificed their life for us.”

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COVID-19: India sets record for new coronavirus cases in a single day | World News

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India has reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period – the biggest one-day total seen anywhere in the world since the pandemic began.

The country’s health ministry said there had been 314,835 new cases on Thursday, a number that passes the previous record – 297,430 in the US in January.

The previous day, India had reported 295,041 new COVID-19 cases.

India’s number of deaths rose by 2,104 to reach a total of 184,657.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said earlier this week that India was facing a coronavirus “storm” which was overwhelming its health system.

Hospitals are facing a severe shortage of beds and oxygen, with some private hospitals in Delhi warning they have less than two hours’ supply of the gas.

People have crowded into refilling facilities, trying to refill empty oxygen cylinders for relatives in hospital.

At least 22 patients in western India died on Wednesday when the oxygen supply to their ventilators ran out due to a leak.

There have even been instances of looting oxygen tankers.

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Mr Modi has been criticised for allowing big gatherings such as weddings and festivals where crowds can mix in confined spaces.

He has also addressed packed political rallies for local elections, speaking to millions of people.

Despite the fact that hospitals are struggling, Mr Modi said earlier this week that state governments should not impose a harsh lockdown.

Instead, he suggested micro-containment zones in an effort to avoid damaging the economy.

But the state of Maharashtra has strengthened its restrictions until at least the beginning of May.

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Patients dies after oxygen tank leaks

All offices – except those providing essential services – must operate with no more than 15% of their staff.

Travel by private vehicle is only allowed for medical emergencies.

And only medical workers and government employees can ride on the trains.

So far, India has administered nearly 130 million doses of the vaccine but this is still a small effort when compared with its population of 1.35 billion.

Currently, only frontline workers and those aged above 45 are eligible but all adults are expected to be allowed a dose from May.

There could be delays ahead, with the country’s Serum Institute warning that it will not be able to reach 100 million doses per month until July, compared with its previous forecast of late May.

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Syrian anti-aircraft missile strikes near Israeli nuclear reactor, military says | World News

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A missile launched from Syria has struck Israel’s Negev desert region, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s nuclear reactor.

In response, Israel said it had struck the missile launcher and other targets in Syria.

The Israeli Defence Force said: “A short while ago, surface-to-air missile fire was identified from Syria, which landed in the Negev area.

“In response, a few minutes ago, the IDF struck the battery from which the missile was launched and additional Syrian surface-to-air batteries in the area.”

Israeli Army Radio said the Syrian missile had been fired at Israeli aircraft during an earlier strike and had overflown its target and reached the Dimona area, where a nuclear reactor is located.

Syrian air defences said they intercepted an Israeli attack in the direction of the Golan Heights.

Syria’s state news agency said that attack took place at around 1:38am local time and targeted areas in the Damascus suburbs.

It said: “Air defences intercepted the rockets and downed most of them.”

Sky correspondent Mark Stone, who has previously been based in the Middle East, said the IDF had told him that the weapon was a SA5 missile and that it had landed in the Negev desert area causing no damage.

He added: “Crucially though this appears not to be a deliberate targeting of the Israeli nuclear facility by Iranian proxies in Syria. Had that been the case, there would have been a significant response by Israel.

“Israel regularly targets Iranian proxies operating inside Syria. It sees them as a clear threat to Israel both in terms of providing a supply line of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and it sees them as a direct threat to Israel.”

“Israel talks less about its regular attacks and clandestine operations inside Iran. It’s all part of an effort by Israel to slow down what it sees as a clear attempt by Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Top scientists have been assassinated and facilities hit.

“In response, Iran repeatedly threatens to retaliate. It’s a continually precarious situation.”

Iran has troops and proxies in Syria and has accused Israel of attacking its nuclear facilities in the past.

Iran has previously vowed revenge for what it says are attacks on its nuclear programme, including a fire that recently damaged its Natanz research site.

Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, and also opposes efforts by the US to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran.

Israel says the deal will not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that it does not address the country’s long-range missile programme and its support for proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.

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