Episode 171.  Implants in the Kremlin’s Snack Machines?

Our guest, Ellen Nakashima, was coauthor of a Washington Post article that truly is a first draft of history, though not a chapter the Obama administration is likely to be proud of.  She and Greg Miller and Adam Entous chronicle the story of Russia’s information operations attack on the 2016 presidential election.

Want to know how it feels to have Donald Trump tweeting your article and taunting the last administration?  Don’t worry, we ask.  Also why was the NSA only moderately confident that Putin was trying to help Trump win, and how did the Obama administration manage to “choke” at every turn.  Jim Comey makes a cameo appearance, ironically refusing to go public with his agency’s assessment of the hack because it might look like he was trying to influence the election — whew! – that’s a bullet dodged!

We dwell on the Obama administration’s bad luck in announcing its judgment on Putin’s hack half an hour before the Access Hollywood story broke and an hour before Podesta’s emails were released.  Sometimes you win the news cycle; sometimes the news cycle wins you.

Finally, Ellen talks about the plan to implant cyberweapons in Russian infrastructure and where it stands.  What infrastructure, you ask?  Infrastructure so serious it was approved by a phalanx of Obama administration lawyers, of course.  It’s an echt-Obama moment, the kind of thing that is bound to be in history’s second draft as well.

We begin the news roundup, as our fans demand, with the latest in sex toy cybersecurity law.  On a more serious note, Jennifer Quinn-Barabanov asks whether the Seventh Circuit has stuck a fork in the data breach class action tactic of offering full damages to the named plaintiff.

Jon Sallet reviews the remarkable success of the Obama Justice Department in challenging mergers in court and argues that it’s likely to continue, if not with the same frequency.

Michael Vatis and I pan Justice Kennedy’s gassy ode to the “Cyber Age” in Packingham v. North Carolina, an opinion that is sure to be cited far more often for its overblown dicta than for its unsurprising holding.

Speaking of the Court, the Solicitor General is seeking review of the Microsoft Ireland case.  Michael and I assess the odds of an affirmance.

Meanwhile, Maury Shenk reports, European angst over the internet continues to force the pace of government action.  Despite a leak revealing its spying on the US Government, Germany is doubling down, expanding law enforcement’s authority to hack suspects’ phones.   And the European Council is calling on Member States to prepare to impose sanctions in response to cyberattacks.

And where will those attacks come from?  Ask the Western IT companies that have recently been forced to disclose their source code to Russian intelligence agencies.  Strictly for cybersecurity purposes, naturally.

And LabMD has at last had a judicial hearing for its objections to the FTC’s handling of its data security case.  Michael and I agree:  it was such a bad day for the FTC that the Commission’s decision to override its own ALJ opinion now looks like hubris of the first order.

And, finally, we cover the equally hubristic decision of some CIA staff to demonstrate their hacker cred by spoofing the Agency’s snack machines.  It may be some consolation to them in unemployment that their exploit was pretty clever.  Or, who knows, maybe they’ve been brought back to help the agency implant the Kremlin’s snack machines.

As always, the Cyberlaw Podcast welcomes feedback. Send an email to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

Download the 171th Episode (mp3).

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Steptoe partner Stewart Baker with Ellen Nakashima
Steptoe partner Stewart Baker with Ellen Nakashima