On Thursday, Ajit Pai Has To Explain Why His FCC Made Up A DDOS Attack And Lied To Congress

from the getcha-popcorn-ready dept

So FCC boss Ajit Pai will need to don some tap-dancing shoes this Thursday, when he’ll be forced to explain to a Senate oversight committee why his agency not only made up a DDOS attack, but lied repeatedly to the press and Congress about it.

As we recently noted, e-mails obtained by FOIA request have proven that the FCC completely made up a DDOS attack in a bizarre bid to downplay the fact that John Oliver’s bit on net neutrality crashed the agency website last year. A subsequent investigation by the FCC Inspector General confirmed those findings, showing not only that no attack took place, but that numerous FCC staffers misled both Congress and the media when asked about it.

Pai initially tried to get out ahead of the scandal and IG report by issuing a statement that threw his employees under the bus while playing dumb. According to Pai’s pre-emptive statement, the entire scandal was the fault of the FCC’s since-departed CIO and other employees who mysteriously failed to alert him that this entire shitshow was occurring (you can just smell the ethical leadership here):

“I am deeply disappointed that the FCC?s former Chief Information Officer (CIO), who was hired by the prior Administration and is no longer with the Commission, provided inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people. This is completely unacceptable. I?m also disappointed that some working under the former CIO apparently either disagreed with the information that he was presenting or had questions about it, yet didn?t feel comfortable communicating their concerns to me or my office.”

There’s several problems with Pai’s statement. One, while FCC CIO David Bray was hired by the Obama-era FCC, he remained employed (and spreading the false DDOS attack) well through last year under Pai’s “leadership.” Two, the FCC IG found that Bray and several other employees had not only been circulating the false DDOS report to reporters, but had repeatedly misled Congress (again under Pai’s watch). The lies of three FCC employees to Congress were deemed severe enough that they were reported to the DOJ, which refused to prosecute anybody (I’m sure you and I would have been granted the same benefit of the doubt).

That Pai had no idea that any of this was happening is a pretty big stretch, especially considering that the FCC continues to block FOIA requests for certain e-mail exchanges related to the stupid affair. As such, when Pai appears before a Senate oversight committee on Thursday, the big question is going to be: just how long did Pai know that his staff was actively misleading Congress in numerous back and forth letter exchanges on the subject?

The other major problem, and it’s one you’d hope lawmakers at the hearing address, is that Pai’s claim that this was all the fault of rogue employees doesn’t gel with the fact that Pai’s press shop was actively misleading and denigrating reporters throughout this whole affair. For example, when the press began digging into the agency’s shaky claims, Pai’s FCC thought it would be a good idea to send a prickly statement to numerous media outlets. That statement not only tried to claim reporters were “irresponsible” simply for trying to clear up the matter, but that the FCC had “voluminous documentation” proving the DDOS attack occurred:

“The FCC has never stated that it lacks any documentation of this DDoS attack itself,” the agency states. “And news reports claiming that the Commission has said this are without any basis and completely irresponsible. In fact, we have voluminous documentation of this attack in the form of logs collected by our commercial cloud partners.”

Outside of the first sentence, nothing in that official FCC statement is true. So again, the idea that Pai knew nothing at all about this mess is hard to believe. Especially given that his own press shop and numerous employees were busy lying to Congress and denigrating reporters simply for getting to the truth. Pai’s explanation for this should make for good television, whether or not Congress grows a spine and actually holds Pai’s feet to the fire.

If you’ve watched Pai’s FCC work, it seems pretty clear at this point that the nonexistent DDOS attack, much like the FCC’s refusal to address bogus comments during the net neutrality public comment period, are all part of the same effort: doing everything possible try and downplay the scope and importance of the massive, unprecedented public opposition to Pai’s historically unpopular policies.

You’d like to think there’s something vaguely resembling accountability at the end of this story. At the very least, it’s likely that the bogus DDOS attack and fake comments will be playing starring roles during the upcoming net neutrality hearings, where all of this can be used to add context to the FCC’s rushed, facts-optional efforts to repeal net neutrality exclusively at broadband monopolies’ behest.

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Comments on “On Thursday, Ajit Pai Has To Explain Why His FCC Made Up A DDOS Attack And Lied To Congress”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Pai: Well, regarding this affair… WOW look at this marvelous oversized mug, don’t you with you had such cool thing?
Congress member: But regarding the DDoS..
Pai: Oh, you should watch my Harlen Shake video, I look so neat!
Congress member: Mr Pai, please restrain yourself and keep on topic.
Congress member: …

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So: X "crashed the agency website last year",

and couldn’t possibly have been seen as intentional DDOS?

No. There is no possible way it could have been seen first as a DDoS, and second as intentional. There are clear markers and indicators of a DDoS attack that any system admin would be able to easily identify. Especially if, as they claim, their "cloud partners" had records of it, since that’s literally their job.

But as it turns out, there were none of those markers or indicators, just a lot of comments being filed all at the same time.

That’s what first reports said. Took time to analyze.

Except he didn’t say that. He said the analysis WAS complete and it definitely WAS a DDoS. That defense won’t fly since he would then be asked to explain the contradiction and which of his statements was a lie since they both couldn’t be true. Either way, he lied.

He’ll easily wiggle out of your hoped-for trap.

One, it’s not a trap, he broke the damn law, deliberately.

Two, yes, he may indeed escape punishment for his actions because Congress seems to be a bunch of jellyfish when it actually comes to holding people accountable. Easily or not remains to be seen.

Srip Easer, the strip-"Ts"-er (user link) says:

Here's my bet how actually went:

Low-level Bureaucrat: Ya done downloading latest Game Of Thrones for me?

Tech: No, cause we’re getting a massive DDOS!

LLB: DDOS? I don’t want to watch that. I want GOT got, get it? Hurry up!

LLB (after having seen frantic techs without grasping cause; to Mid-Level Bureaucrat in oily tone): We just finished implementing the DDOS as you ordered!

MLB (after questions from above): Did you say we got a DDOS?

LLB: That’s right. And it’s massive!

Pointy-Haired Bosses all the way up and down, ignorant and then stuck defending some tech’s excited guess.

You’re attributing to malice what’s better explained by PHBs.

Already two Anti-Pai pieces this week. That’s your schtick, all you’ve got for topic, and you are similarly stuck with continuing though lack any actual evidence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Here's my bet how actually went:

Already two Anti-Pai pieces this week. That’s your schtick, all you’ve got for topic, and you are similarly stuck with continuing though lack any actual evidence.

I’m pretty sure the "lack of actual evidence" is what has prompted the Congressional investigation of Pai, not Techdirt.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'This is not the admission you are looking for...'

What I find rather funny is they ended by claiming that there’s no evidence, when the first article they whined about was about Pai throwing his staff under the bus by admitting that he’d been lying through his teeth about a DDoS the whole time.

(Of course he couldn’t be honest enough to say so outright and instead played dumb/victim, but yeah, don’t buy that for a second.)

I guess Pai’s own words and an investigation by the FCC IG don’t qualify as ‘evidence’.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

"Ajit Pai Has To Explain..."

No. Mr. Pai only has to mumble a bit resembling an explanation. So long as he does as well as Betsy DeVos’ hearing before she was confirmed as Secretary of Education, he’ll be given free pass.

As Pai has, so far, not pissed off Trump, he’s still a man of the GOP, and they’ll assure he doesn’t get any long term heat from this.

DannyB (profile) says:

He has to explain why?

Isn’t it obvious why he lied to congress? Is congress too stupid not to already know why? (Nevermind. Don’t answer that.)

The reason is clear: Ajit lied because his goal in life was to remove the dreaded and despised Network Neutrality that prevents big ISPs from screwing their customers even worse than they already have. Network Neutrality prevents new innovations such as how to create slow lanes while saying you’re creating fast lanes. With Network Neutrality big ISPs are prevented from introducing innovations such as charging higher prices for lower bandwidth to put the US into the most poorly served internet countries on the planet. Or innovations such as injecting ads into your browsing. Or innovations such as throttling your content based on where it goes to or comes from. ISPs are crying their eyes out that big bad net neutrality prevents them from deploying these innovations.

Ajit and bit ISPs were popping champaign corks when net neutrality was removed. So it must be good for us.

Rekrul says:

Congress: Why did the FCC lie to us about there being a DDOS attack on your organization?

Pai: Well, my plan to repeal net neutrality was really unpopular and we received so many comments that our system crashed. Since we didn’t want to admit this, claiming it was a DDOS attack was the easiest excuse.

Congress: So you lied to us?

Pai: Yup. What are you going to do about it? Send a sternly worded letter? Trump loves me so you can all go pound sand. It’s not like oversight committees have any real power anyway. They make a lot of noise, hold hearings, but in the end, nothing ever comes out of it. These committees are toothless and everyone knows it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a briefcase full of cash to pick up from Verizon. Later losers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Pretty much, though it will probably sound more like this:

Congress: Why did the FCC lie to us about there being a DDOS attack on your organization?

Pai: The FCC was working off of information from the current CIO, David Bray. He misinformed the rest of us and the few who knew he was lying were too afraid to come forward due to the culture inherited from Obama and Tom Wheeler.

Congress: You really expect us to believe that you had no idea your CIO was lying to you, considering that even you never saw any documentation of a DDoS attack (since none existed) and even after a year of technical analysis and media reports cast more than a shadow of doubt on those lies? Yet you still continued to insist there was a DDoS attack and the FCC did have all the documentation necessary to prove it, despite not having seen any of it, right up until the day you saw the IG report?

Pai: Absolutely, that is exactly what I expect you to believe. I was a victim in all this too, you know. I’m just trying to do the right thing and close the digital divide. How was I supposed to know my CIO was lying so blatantly to me?

Congress: …..Well, we don’t believe you but we really don’t have concrete evidence to prove you did know either so, fine, continue on. Just don’t let it happen again, or else.

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