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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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 6:08am

    End of the Day

    When all is said and done, he was doing the bidding of the companies that pay the most to get the laws written, and will be forgiven. Or shuffled quickly offstage to a cushy consulting gig for them...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 6:08am

    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. Pai: DINOSAURS!! Congress member: ... Pai: IT'S ALL OBAMA'S FAULT!!! COVFEFE!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Iggy, 15 Aug 2018 @ 6:34am

    I have a feeling the second half of Donald Trumps presidency will be a lot funnier than the first. Can't wait for the hearing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2018 @ 6:38am

    Coming up on Thursday..

    Ajit Pai backs the bus up and runs over staffers, again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 6:56am

      Re: Coming up on Thursday..

      Those would be the staffers whom the upper management ordered to lie, or about whom they just made up stuff. Although there may be some True Believers under that bus, i suppose, somehow managing to fall on their own swords from that position.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 15 Aug 2018 @ 7:02am

      Re: Coming up on Thursday..

      This. What better opportunity to fire a few people he does not like (probably those who were against the DDOS hoax) and brag about accountability?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2018 @ 6:41am

    Another charade performed for the entertainment of multi-millionaires in their royal chamber, for them it is sick comedy, for the citizens it is a nightmare.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Srip Easer, the strip-"Ts"-er, 15 Aug 2018 @ 8:11am

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

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

    All Ajit Pai has to say is: That's what first reports said. Took time to analyze.

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2018 @ 8:58am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Srip Easer, the strip-"Ts"-er, 15 Aug 2018 @ 8:13am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2018 @ 8:19am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        mcinsand, 15 Aug 2018 @ 8:39am

        Lack of Evidence? LOL

        >>I'm pretty sure the "lack of actual evidence"...

        There's a wealth of evidence... that the FCC has been lying to Congress and the public at large for over a year. If only we had penalties for dishonest federal officials. *sigh*

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 9:43am

        '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'.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2018 @ 9:47am

      How’s the maze business going bro?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2018 @ 8:25am

    The most honest answer here would be "Because I can."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 9:27am

      Re:

      Assuming he's capable of telling the truth anyway, he lies with such ease and frequency at this point it wouldn't surprise me if it was his default form of communication.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2018 @ 8:37am

    Maybe he'll continue lying his ass off and then we can prosecute him for lying under oath.

    Not that claiming to be a victim of a crime that didn't occur isn't also illegal and punishable under the law. But maybe continuing that lie before congress will get it prosecuted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OA (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 8:59am

    Testifying in front of Congress is a leading form of memory loss.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2018 @ 9:10am

    Is it ok to lie to congress?
    What might happen to someone who does?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 9:17am

      Re:

      Answer #1: Depends on who you are.

      Answer #2: See Answer #1.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      lucidrenegade (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 9:29am

      Re:

      Lying to the federal government, even if you're not under oath, carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison. Lying under oath, aka perjury, is a different, but similar crime. In practice though, That One Guy's response below is most likely what would happen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OA (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 12:31pm

      Re:

      I think they can be found in contempt of Congress. At the very least it's perjury. They can be jailed the moment the lie is discovered, I believe (if you are not powerful).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rekrul, 16 Aug 2018 @ 8:26am

      Re:

      Is it ok to lie to congress?

      Based on recent examples, absolutely.

      What might happen to someone who does?

      Again, based on recent examples, nothing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2018 @ 11:12am

    The POS Pai will pretend to take responsibility only by claiming the 'buck stops here' moto. He will not admit to the hogwash he created and instead pretend to have been mislead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 11:16am

    Shame the law doesn't apply to them.
    Nothing will happen, nothing will change (well except some contributions might mysteriously go up), even if they ejected him he'll land softly in the lap of the industry he cleared the path to screw consumers a bit more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    onyxmicro (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 1:56pm

    Re:

    The link

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2018 @ 2:41pm

    Sack the cunt for fucks sake! He's done nothing as far as what he's supposed to do for the people and everything possible for the big ISPs and communication companies, just as was intended!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Aug 2018 @ 6:51pm

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 16 Aug 2018 @ 5:56am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 16 Aug 2018 @ 8:34am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2018 @ 9:46am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2018 @ 9:37am

    30 seconds of listening to Senator Cruz. Conclusion: he is a fucking idiot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2018 @ 11:11am

    Well, I missed the first portion and heard nothing about the fake DDOS. Probably a good thing as it would have been infuriating to hear him speak to it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ashit Pai, 17 Aug 2018 @ 4:05pm

    "Not wittingly."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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