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Tuesday, November 21, 2017
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Wasn't there some issue about Hillary doing this? Nah Senior members of the Trump administration have been accused of blatant hypocrisy after it was revealed they are continuing to use personal email accounts. Key advisors to the president, Kellyanne Conway and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as press secretary Sean Spicer and chief strategist Steve Bannon, all have accounts on the Republican Party's rnchq.org domain, and are continuing to use them in addition to their official government accounts, according to Newsweek. It's not known whether the top lieutenants are using the accounts to discuss White House business outside official channels, but the fact that the accounts exist and are being used is remarkable in the face of what was one of the most persistent attacks by the same group on presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – that she had used a personal email system to carry out government business. In Clinton's case, the Trump campaign made huge play of the fact that over 30,000 emails on the personal server were not handed over to a Congressional committee looking into the affair, with President Trump often leading chants of "lock her up." Ultimately, no action was taken against Clinton. People have been quick to point out that the same rnchq.org domain was used by members of the Bush Administration, who were heavily criticized for having "lost" no fewer than 22 million emails when asked to hand them over to the presidential archives. It is also strongly suspected that the same domain and email server were compromised by Russian hackers during the presidential campaign. There is nothing illegal in White House staffers using personal email accounts, but they are expected to forward any that pertain to official business to their official government account within 20 days so they can be archived. The Obama Administration set firm guidelines on the use of such accounts, with staffers told to ensure as far as possible to only use official accounts for work purposes. Whether the current crop of White House staff has decided to be as conscientious or whether they consider email policy to be another of the official policies they are not obliged to follow, only time will tell. Either way, it is just one more ethical concern laid at the doors of the new administration. ® Sponsored: Flash enters the mainstream. Visit The Register's storage hub
U.S. efforts to get to the bottom about Russia’s role in hacking this year’s presidential election may very well end up mired in politics, hampering any response. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, was the latest U.S. lawmaker to call for an investigation into Russia’s possible involvement. “This simply cannot be a partisan issue,” he said during a press conference. A growing number of lawmakers, in addition to U.S. intelligence agencies, also assert that Russia was behind the high-profile hacks that were intended to influence this year’s election.

Among the targets were Democratic groups and figures whose emails were stolen and later leaked online. However, any investigation into the matter will probably receive little to no support from incoming President Donald Trump, who’s remained skeptical of the hacking allegations. He’s been particularly dismissive of a new claim from the CIA that the Russian government interfered to help Trump win the election. “I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said in an interview aired on Fox News Sunday. “I think it’s just another excuse.
I don’t believe it.” In the interview, Trump went on to allege that rival Democrats are compelling U.S. intelligence groups to claim that Russia meddled in the election. He plans on introducing new leadership to run those intelligence agencies. The resistance from Trump isn’t a surprise.

During the campaign trail, he also voiced doubts about Russia’s involvement in the hacks, claiming that China or a “400-pound” hacker may have been the true culprit. But Trump’s insistence on dismissing the hacking claims, despite U.S. intelligence findings, has less to do with cybersecurity, and everything to do with politics, said John Bambenek, a malware researcher at Fidelis Cybersecurity. Critics of the incoming president are now using claims of Russian interference in the election to discredit Trump’s election win, he said. “The debate isn’t about whether Russia hacked the elections, it’s about whether Trump is a legitimate president or not,” Bambenek said. His company, Fidelis Cybersecurity, was among those that investigated the hack of the Democratic National Committee, one of several breaches during the presidential race blamed on Russia.

All the evidence found, including the malware and tactics used, pointed to the involvement of two hacking teams, known as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, believed to have ties with the Russian government. However, partisan politics is overshadowing the debate on Russia’s involvement, Bambenek said.
Several news articles published this past weekend, suggesting that the CIA and the FBI disagree on Russia’s role in the hacking, has only muddled the affair. “We are well outside the realm of intelligence,” Bambenek said. “Even if the truth was known, would anyone believe it?” However, before Trump takes office, President Barack Obama has ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to produce a report reviewing Russia’s alleged involvement in the election hacks.

The Obama administration intends to make parts of that report public. On Monday, McConnell declined to say whether he believed Russia was behind any U.S. election hacks.

But, he added, “the Russians are not our friends.” Other lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have also called for an investigation to look into U.S. election tampering.

But the continued skepticism from Trump makes it unclear if his administration intends to take any retaliatory action against Russia. “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking,” Trump tweeted on Monday.