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Trump's Incomprehensible 'Cyber' Policy: 'Make Cyber Great Again'

from the let's-try-that-again dept

Last week, we wrote about Donald Trump’s fairly astounding interview transcript with the Washington Post editorial board. In that post, we focused on his bizarre and nonsensical comments on defamation law, though there was lots of other nuttiness in the interview. Over the weekend, the NY Times published its own transcript of an interview between Donald Trump and two reporters, Maggie Haberman and David Sanger, focusing on foreign policy questions. Once again, reading it presents an incredible picture of a man running for President who doesn’t know the most basic things about foreign policy (he literally seemed shocked and confused when the reporters pointed out that the US has sanctions against Iran, barring it from buying Boeing airplanes).

But the issue that is relevant to folks around here is his completely confused and nonsensical responses to two things: cybersecurity and Ed Snowden. Let’s start with cybersecurity. They first ask him if “cyberweapons” might present an “alternative” to nuclear weapons, which, with some background knowledge is an interesting question. Obviously, the US has used its power there using tools like Stuxnet to slowdown Iran’s nuclear program, and possibly has done a lot more as well. Whether or not you agree with this approach, it’s clearly a tool available to the US government these days. Trump doesn’t even seem to understand the nature of the question, and just focuses on how dangerous nuclear weapons are… and his brilliant uncle at MIT telling him about how dangerous nukes are.

SANGER: You know, we have an alternative these days in a growing cyberarsenal. You?ve seen the growing cybercommand and so forth. Could you give us a vision of whether or not you think that the United States should regularly be using cyberweapons, perhaps, as an alternative to nuclear? And if so, how would you either threaten or employ those?

TRUMP: I don?t see it as an alternative to nuclear in terms of, in terms of ultimate power. Look, in the perfect world everybody would agree that nuclear would, you know, be so destructive, and this was always the theory, or was certainly the theory of many. That the power is so enormous that nobody would ever use them. But, as you know, we?re dealing with people in the world today that would use them, O.K.? Possibly numerous people that use them, and use them without hesitation if they had them. And there?s nothing, there?s nothing as, there?s nothing as meaningful or as powerful as that, and you know the problem is, and it used to be, and you would hear this, David, and I would hear it, and everybody would hear it, and ? I?m not sure I believed it, ever. I talk sometimes about my uncle from M.I.T., and he would tell me many years ago when he was up at M.I.T. as a, he was a professor, he was a great guy in many respects, but a very brilliant guy, and he would tell me many years ago about the power of weapons someday, that the destructive force of these weapons would be so massive, that it?s going to be a scary world. And, you know, we have been under the impression that, well we?ve been, I think it?s misguided somewhat, I?ve always felt this but that nobody would ever use them because of the power. And the first one to use them, I think that would be a very bad thing. And I will tell you, I would very much not want to be the first one to use them, that I can say.

So, after that Sanger tries again, noting that Trump didn’t actually answer the question, which was actually about cybersecurity and cyberweapons, and Trump presents us with his patented form of word salad:

SANGER: The question was about cyber, how would you envision using cyberweapons? Cyberweapons in an attack to take out a power grid in a city, so forth.

TRUMP: First off, we?re so obsolete in cyber. We?re the ones that sort of were very much involved with the creation, but we?re so obsolete, we just seem to be toyed with by so many different countries, already. And we don?t know who?s doing what. We don?t know who?s got the power, who?s got that capability, some people say it?s China, some people say it?s Russia. But certainly cyber has to be a, you know, certainly cyber has to be in our thought process, very strongly in our thought process. Inconceivable that, inconceivable the power of cyber. But as you say, you can take out, you can take out, you can make countries nonfunctioning with a strong use of cyber. I don?t think we?re there. I don?t think we?re as advanced as other countries are, and I think you probably would agree with that. I don?t think we?re advanced, I think we?re going backwards in so many different ways. I think we?re going backwards with our military. I certainly don?t think we are, we move forward with cyber, but other countries are moving forward at a much more rapid pace. We are frankly not being led very well in terms of the protection of this country.

It seems pretty clear that Trump has no clue what is being discussed and just falls back into his usual talking points about how America just isn’t that good any more, and then uses the tiny bit of information he does have (China and Russia have been in the news around hackings) and argues that they’re better than us. But, “we’re obsolete”? Huh? As noted above (not by him, of course), the most powerful computer-based attacks do seem to be coming from the US itself, not Russia or China.

Also, what does “inconceivable that, inconceivable the power of cyber” even mean? All I can think of is the scene from The Princess Bride.

Then we get to Ed Snowden. Trump, perhaps not surprisingly, is not a fan:

HABERMAN: Mr. Trump, just a quick follow-up on that question. As you know, we discovered in recent years that the U.S. spies extensively against its allies. That?s what came up with Edward Snowden and his data trove including Israel and Germany.

TRUMP: Edward Snowden has caused us tremendous problems.

HABERMAN: But would you continue the programs that are in place now, or would you halt them, in terms of spying against our allies?

SANGER: Like Israel and Germany.

TRUMP: Right. They?re spying against us. Edward Snowden has caused us tremendous problems. Edward Snowden has been, you know, you have the two views on Snowden, obviously: You have, he?s wonderful, and you have he?s horrible. I?m in the horrible category. He?s caused us tremendous problems with trust, with everything about, you know, when they?re showing, Merkel?s cellphone has been spied on, and are ? Now, they?re doing it to us, and other countries certainly are doing it to us, and but what I think what he did, I think it was a tremendous, a tremendous disservice to the United States. I think and I think it?s amazing that we can?t get him back.

Wait, Ed Snowden is the one who’s caused us problems with trust? Not the fact that the US was spying on people it maybe shouldn’t have been spying on? Talk about blaming the messenger.

There’s then a follow-up about whether or not Trump agreed with President Obama’s publicly stated agreement not to spy on Angela Merkel’s phone (though it’s now been said that everyone else in the German government remains fair game), and Trump goes back to word salad, and concludes with another dig at Snowden where, bizarrely, he seems to argue that other countries are spying on us because of Snowden. Huh?

SANGER: President Obama ordered an end to the spying, to the listening in on Angela Merkel?s cellphone, if that?s in fact what we were doing. Was that the right decision?

TRUMP: Well you see, I don?t know that, you know, when I talk about unpredictability, I?m not sure that we should be talking about me ? On the assumption that I?m doing well, which I am, and that I may be in that position, I?m not sure that I would want to be talking about that. You understand what I mean by that, David. We?re so open, we?re so, ?Oh I wouldn?t do this, I wouldn?t do that, I would do this, I would do that.? And it?s not so much with Merkel, but it?s certainly with other countries. You know, that really, where there?s, where there?s a different kind of relationship, and a much worse relationship than with Germany. So, you know there?s so, there?s such predictability with our country. We go and we send 50 soldiers over to the Middle East and President Obama gets up and announces that we?re sending 50 soldiers to the Middle East. Fifty very special soldiers. And they now have a target on their back, and everything we do, we announce, instead of winning, and announcing when it?s all over. There?s such, total predictability of this country, and it?s one of the reasons we do so poorly. You know, I?d rather not say that. I would like to see what they?re doing. Because you know, many countries, I can?t say Germany, but many countries are spying on us. I think that was a great disservice done by Edward Snowden. That I can tell you.

Again, I know that all the other candidates are pretty horrible as well. But at least most of them can grasp basic concepts around the issues they’re facing (even if they have terrible ideas about what to do about them). Trump doesn’t even seem to understand the basics — or even understand that he doesn’t understand.

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Comments on “Trump's Incomprehensible 'Cyber' Policy: 'Make Cyber Great Again'”

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100 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: His words in print

“They’ll just say it’s because he’s not a professional politician and isn’t trying to trick us with all that slick talking.”

I love this line of thought and enjoy trying to apply it to basically any other profession on Earth.

“How come our financial planner referred to our ‘account thingy’ rather than the Roth IRA we set up, and referred to our beneficiaries as ‘money-getters’?”

“Well, dear, it’s because he’s not an actual professional wealth management professional and he’s not trying to fool us with all of that slick financial language and whatnot. Let’s just give him all the money, okay?”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: His words in print

You are acting like any of the other candidates know any better than he does.

Trump, Hillary, Cruz, Bernie… when you get right down to it, there is just not much of a difference in the end.

You can take the Hillary/Bernie route and welcome all of the illegals in that are pretty much going to turn America into a 3rd world nation just like Europe is becoming right before our eyes.

-or-

You can take the Cruz/Trump route and maybe stave off the illegal immigration and instead get some Police State extras.

Both sides are disingenuous and the closest thing to representing the people seem to be either Bernie or Trump. Which sad because both have very Anti American problems with their politics, but you can’t get the unwashed masses to see the truth.

Here we go again… voting for the lesser of two evils, picking your poison. Will it be the left foot or the right foot today?

eMan says:

Re: Re: Re:2 His words in print

..but you can’t get the unwashed masses to see the truth.

Maybe the unwashed masses see the truth, but you have an extremely predjudiced mass media reshaping the truth and they’re never going to admit to what they’re up to. So everyone who’s too tired to devote their life to researching the truth gets bamboozled. In the end though, its still us and them.

Hold that thought says:

Re: Re: Re:2 His words in print

Trump, Hillary, Cruz, Bernie… when you get right down to it, there is just not much of a difference in the end.

If you watch these folks from washington, dc at their craft long enough, several decades at least, you’ll see they are all in cahoots. If you take my word for it, it will save you a lot of time.

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: His words in print

Dark Helmet wrote:

I find it useful to take Trump’s spoken word, put it in print, and then present that to people and ask “THIS is the guy you want to be President?!?!”

I refer you to the comments from Trump fans on the transcript of WaPo editorial board interview, like this one:

Even with Trumps warts, I would vote for him. This man is a non-career politician who makes common sense out of complicated problems. Yes, he’s not a smooth talkin’ politician, but he speaks from the heart and he loves America. He’s also the only candidate who has NOT taken campaign contributions from George Soros, of moveon. org, who can only be described as a James Bond villain.

Or this one:

with a few exceptions I love the Washington Post and I am glad they are affiliated with our local paper “The Intelligencer” in Doylestown Pa. I thought this interview was far better than the questions asked at the debates
Perhaps it was not their intention but they gave Trump an opportunity to show how really knowledgeable (really smart) he is of the great problems facing our country and his ability to resolve them
For the Elite of America who disparage the supporters of Trump you may to your surprise find out how many people of diverse means ,education ,age and political differences are supporting Donald Trump

There’s more, but I have enough of a headache already.
Nothing matters.

GrooveNeedle (profile) says:

Re: Re: His words in print

And this is the problem. The people eating up his gibberish are no more intelligent, but THINK they are. They think they are hearing someone honest, smart, and caring.

They believe that by over-simplifying complex issues that he is intelligent. Where in actuality, he’s giving grade school-level answers to university-level problems. The number of legitimate “what if” scenarios not covered by his answers should scare everyone.

There’s something to be said about problem solving by breaking down the problem into it’s smallest parts, but that is NOT what he is doing. He’s giving a sales pitch, full of bullshit, with half-realized thoughts about marginally-understood issues.

I guess you dumb down the public education system enough and this is the blowback.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: His words in print

It seems most likely that Trump is unstoppable for the republican convention lead. But in terms of becoming president, publications citing him word for word will eventually start to wear on his popularity.

Right now the republican primaries are becoming an everybody against Trump and that is part of his popularity, since people want someone to change the system and to go against the dogmas of the two-party system.

In terms of the presidential election, it is to be expected that Trump will have to fight a 1 on 1. In that setting, a man fighting the world will be much less likely to succeed if his opponent is good at addressing his attacks.

Puddles says:

Re: Re: Re:4 His words in print

The very thought that everyone in the country would believe that this political circus troupe would allow the masses to direct them and tell them who is in and who is out by truthfully tallying the country’s votes is really suspicious and dubious. It seems to be a very weak link in a democratic society. The one with that tally would really have to know the power in his or her hand and be aware that the entire belief in the system would seem to be so easy to usurp. We should all be demanding to see and count the votes ourselves before they could be altered. I don’t believe them.

David (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: GW as a Rhodes scholar

Yes he does! I have read some actual transcripts of Bush speeches and they were horrible. Horrible is too light a description. But those were massaged to the point of perfect before Dubya ever got to read them. He just mangled them to the point of incomprehension.
Here it’s just Trump’s mouth directly connected to the random noise from space, the area between his ears, not the higher altitude version.

AJ says:

So our choices for President may be between; Babbling Circus Clown who should be given a Mel Brooks style paddle ball toy when it’s his turn to speak…. or; Career Criminal Lying Crook who should be breaking large rocks into small rocks, not running for President…

Fuck it; I’m writing in Dark Helmet for President!!!

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Has it not occurred to you that capitalism requires the use of economic force for it to work and every application of economic force reduces the liberty of the citizenry just that much more?

Think about it; the top tier elites LOVE unchecked immigration because it pushes wages down by forcing us to compete with each other over the jobs that are left after they’ve outsourced them.

Besides, there’s no way you’d ever get full-blown socialism in America. The most you’d get is Vermont’s system rolled out nationwide, if possible.

Of all the people who carp and whine about the parade of horribles that would surely ensue if Bernie got in, not one of them has ever been able to answer this question: “So how come Vermont is not the hellhole you think the rest of the country would be if he got in?”

They can’t. Because capitalism and state-funded services feed into each other, creating a prosperous state. We actually need that because it doesn’t pick winners or losers, it just fertilises the soil in which private enterprise can grow.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Privatized profits and socialized losses … wooohooo isn’t it grand?

Many do not understand political systems in general, much less any one particular system. Most of what they “know” they have heard from various corporate media .. who have multiple conflicts of interest.

And add to that the fact that Bernie is not what we were all conditioned to fear back in the day.

Fun times!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…So our choices for President may be between; Babbling Circus Clown who should be given a Mel Brooks style paddle ball toy when it’s his turn to speak…. or; Career Criminal Lying Crook who should be breaking large rocks into small rocks, not running for President…

At this time Cruz and Sanders are still in the race. Unfortunately neither are any better.

…Fuck it; I’m writing in Dark Helmet for President!!!…

A much better choice 🙂

Now if we could get the authorities to actually count write-in votes without the BS about write-ins having to meet all the other requirements before the election.

beech says:

build a wall

What we need here is a big, beautiful, multi-billion dollar firewall. That’ll keep those foreigners off our tubes. Because, i know, I’ve spoken to foreigners who have thanked me for our tubes. But when foreigners invade the tubes, they’re not always sending their best. I think we should just keep all terrorist traffic off our interweb until we get this all figured out.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: build a wall

I hope you don’t mind if I re-word this into Trump-speak:

“What we need here is a big, beautiful, multi-billion dollar firewall. Firewalls are big and beautiful, you know? I’ve met some and they’re beautiful, those firewalls.
Hey, look at all the pretty people on this panel. Can we introduce each other? I don’t think I’ve met some of you guys. You know, my wife is pretty, but not as pretty as Cruz’s wife because she’s not pretty, you know? And you want to elect someone with a pretty wife, you know? Not someone who’s not pretty.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Is this really any different, except in terms of polish, from so many other politicians who when faced with a tough question devolve into non-answer, irrelevant, canned response, sound-bite platitudes?

Also, it may have been irrelevant to the question at hand, but I for one am glad to hear Trump expressly say that he does not want to use our nukes. Yes, you’d think it need not be said, but as much as everyone paints him as a crazy person, considering he might end up the president, that statement of sanity is at least slightly comforting.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Is this really any different, except in terms of polish, from so many other politicians who when faced with a tough question devolve into non-answer, irrelevant, canned response, sound-bite platitudes?”

In a sense, not really. Which is part of the point. But his responses aren’t just lacking polish, they’re incoherent.

So you have to ask why? Is it because he’s an arrogant, egotistical blowhard who truly has no concept of his ignorance, or is he cynically manipulating people who want to believe that’s what he is?

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

John Fenderson wrote:

So you have to ask why? Is it because he’s an arrogant, egotistical blowhard who truly has no concept of his ignorance, or is he cynically manipulating people who want to believe that’s what he is?

I think he genuinely believes he did a great job in this NY interview and with the WaPo editorial board meeting.

It doesn’t mean he’s not also a con man who has cynically manipulated people (probably all his life). But because he’s been so successful a conman, he’s come to believe that he really does know everything he needs to know, about everything. And he won’t let anyone near him who dares to tell him otherwise.

It’s terrifying, and yes, it is different from so many other politicians. If we wondered before what would be worse than the non-answers we so often get from them… Here’s worse.

Berenerd (profile) says:

This is why we can't have nice things....

We have the GOP of No unwilling to do their duty until they get Trump in the high chair. I have a feeling if they follow through they will be sorry they did.

Trump is what the last 6 years of Tea party games and GOP fear mongering has done to the masses. They set this up thinking one of their own controllable crazies would win, instead they got someone who can talk pretty to get those who were conned into thinking the whole world is our enemy to follow him.
I for see Trump outsourcing his cabinet to Mexico or China so that he can make America outsourcing great again.

/endrant

And yes, I am a Bernie supporter that does not live off the government but know what Socialism is and how it works.

sorrykb (profile) says:

Words fail me

TRUMP: I have gotten some of the reviews of my speech at Aipac and, really, they’ve been very nice. They were very nice. Were you there? Were either of you at that speech?

HABERMAN: I was.

SANGER: I saw it on TV.

TRUMP: You saw the response Maggie, then, from the crowd?

HABERMAN: I did. I did.

TRUMP: Many, many standing ovations and they agreed with what I said.

Rekrul says:

It’s amazing that political office, one of the most important jobs a person can have, requires absolutely no qualifications whatsoever. Any idiot can run for office and get elected if they tell the people what they want to hear.

Maybe we should try that with other professions; “Hi, I’m Bob and I’m running for chief of surgery at the local hospital. I don’t know a scalpel from a stethoscope, but if you elect me, I promise to cut all medical bills in half!”

A Rube says:

Ted Cruz is literally as clueless as Trump on tech issues, and I am not just saying that because of his infamous net neutrality rant – every single time Cruz speaks of tech issues it is obvious he has no idea what he is talking about on any level at all. So you have two tech-challenged morons and then of course gramma Hillary and grampa Kasich, who are about 0.2 percent more knowledgeable than the two other twits, meaning they might be able to turn on a computer.

Sanders is the only one with some tech understanding among them and he didn’t get the encryption issue either, but he is still leagues ahead of these other numbskulls. These aren’t candidates for the future or even for the present. This inevitable lack of even the most rudimentary tech knowledge, never mind the ability to handle complex issues, in the next president (unless Sanders actually wins) is just pathetic.

Zonker says:

Slightly off topic, but Trump’s comment on nukes above:

…I think it’s misguided somewhat, I’ve always felt this but that nobody would ever use them because of the power. And the first one to use them, I think that would be a very bad thing. And I will tell you, I would very much not want to be the first one to use them, that I can say.

Would somebody remind that ignoramus that the US was the first (and second) one to use them already, and against an urban civilian population at that? Imagine a possible US President who doesn’t even know the basics about WWII and how it ended?

David (profile) says:

What about Stuxnet?

So, apparently Mr. Trump, self proclaimed smart guy, doesn’t appear to know that US spy agencies, possibly with the aid of Israel, attacked the infrastructure of Iran’s nuclear weapon facility with state of the art spyware/malware. State of the art. The reviews of the work were universal in their praise of the quality of the work.
Unfortunately the smart guy(tm) doesn’t know anything about Stuxnet so the US is behind on cyber.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: What about Stuxnet?

So, apparently Mr. Trump, self proclaimed smart guy, doesn’t appear to know that US spy agencies, possibly with the aid of Israel, attacked the infrastructure of Iran’s nuclear weapon facility with state of the art spyware/malware. State of the art.

It was really tremendous malware, really really great, you know, really very classy. Everybody says how great that malware is and we’re really going to make malware great again.

shane (profile) says:

Trumped

At some point folks are going to have to confront Trump on his own turf. You can make all the idiotic comments you like about him not understanding cybersecurity, but no President of the USA is ever going to be deeply knowledgeable about everything you may want to spring on them. They all have prepackaged responses to questions on a broad range of topics. Acting like Trump is the only one is stupid.

The take everyone is trying to play against Trump is he is a xenophobic racist. Unfortunately, you have all been talking about the working class for decades as if the left were doing anything for us.

They are NOT.

Border issues are about saying enough is enough to lip service to AMERICAN WORKING PEOPLE.

If you geniuses can’t get it fixed and still engage in internationalism, we’re going to take your internationalist toys away so that you can focus on issues here at home.

I am SICK TO DEATH of screaming liberal whining about Trump, and he is basically a Democrat who doesn’t hate America as much as most Democrats do.

It’s pathetic.

Justin Otter Guy (profile) says:

God Bless America

For whatever reason this day and age Americans are no doubt looking at these people who appear to be running for President of the United States of America and have to be wondering are these the best people they could possibly come up with for such a f#@king important position and some might be looking at them as mere figureheads that are mounted on the bow of the great ship, but aren’t actually steering her or even lighting the way for her safe passage into the ominous seas ahead.

This is so amazing to some of us who understand that these people have enjoyed usurping the authority of the government of the United States of America over the past 5 or 6 decades for reasons that are very possibly so nefarious, like the ushering in of the anti-christ or maybe at a more local level just to fill their coffers and not make waves or you end up in the East River or missing in some South American jungle, another story to be on the six o’clock news to be sure.

Regardless, they act on their media like we are all a bunch of morons who don’t deserve the respect we are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America for just being law abiding citizens of this great nation and moreover, demolishing the truth of what is really going on so their true nature and their secretive agendas can’t possibly be revealed. It makes me chuckle eerily behind the sickening sense I have when I think about how GREAT this nation once was.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: God Bless America

Regardless, they act on their media like we are all a bunch of morons who don’t deserve the respect we are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America for just being law abiding citizens of this great nation

There are many guarantees in the Constitution, but respect is not one of them.

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