So we’ve been noting how (thanks to FOIA requests) the FCC has been caught completely making up a DDOS attack in a bizarre, ham-fisted attempt to downplay public opposition to their net neutrality repeal. In short, agency e-mails confirm agency staffers routinely fed false claims to gullible reporters that the FCC website outages caused by John Oliver’s coverage of the repeal were the result of a malicious attack, then used those false claims to further prop up the bogus narrative. The goal was apparently to try and downplay massive public backlash to what Americans overwhelmingly believe to be shitty, corruption-fueled policy.
Not too surprisingly, the FCC has gone radio silent in response to press inquiries on this from numerous press outlets. For such a normally chatty agency, that suggests that FCC lawyers are well aware that this entire fracas could prove to be legally problematic, given the repeated false DDOS claims to the reporters, press, and public (pdf). Most of the e-mails provided so far via FOIA requests are heavily redacted, suggesting there’s likely much more to this story that’s going to emerge over time.
Meanwhile, Senators Brian Schatz and Ron Wyden this week pressed the issue, sending the FCC a letter demanding more insight into the DDOS attack that never was. In the letter, the duo ask for any and all FCC evidence on the phantom attack, and the results of any internal FCC investigations that may have occurred so far:
“On May 9, 2017, we sent you a letter regarding alleged cyberattacks on the Federal Communication Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System during that month. There was also an ECFS issue involving the net neutrality proceeding in 2014. In our letter we asked that you keep Congress fully briefed as to your investigation.
Beyond your initial internal analyses that you reference in your June 15, 2017, response, have any subsequent FCC or third-party (e.g., vendor, contractor, or government agency) analyses or investigations verified that a cyberattack on ECFS occurred in 2017 and, if so, that the attack is best classified as a DDoS attack? If not, why was no investigation conducted? Please provide any and all reports, findings, and other relevant details of any such investigations.”
Of course from reading the news, the Senators already know the FCC appears to have zero hard evidence that the attack occurred, and previous claims that internal “analysis” had confirmed the attacks were false. Democrats have been hoping to use the repeal of net neutrality to their advantage during the midterms, and the fact evidence proves the FCC lied during their justifications for the move is likely to be politically problematic for the “freedom restorin'” FCC.
Meanwhile, the nonpartisan GAO is currently investigating both this scandal and the identity theft and fraud that occurred during the net neutrality repeal. There’s likely several more layers to this story, some of which are likely to be revealed during the net neutrality court challenges that should take flight sometime in the next few weeks.