During the time the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was taking public comments ahead of the rollback of net neutrality rules, the agency had claimed its comments system was knocked offline by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
These attacks were used to question the credibility of the comment process, where millions of Americans had voiced against the net neutrality rollback. The Commission then chose to ignore the public comments altogether.
FCC now admits it’s been lying about these attacks all this time
No one bought the FCC’s claims that its comment system was targeted by hackers during the net neutrality comment process. Investigators have today validated those suspicions revealing that there is no evidence to support the claims of DDoS attacks in 2017. Following the investigation that was carried out after lawmakers and journalists pushed the agency to share the evidence of these attacks, the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has today released a statement, admitting that there was no DDoS attack.
This statement would have been surprising coming from Pai – an ex-Verizon employee who has continued to disregard public comments, stonewall journalists’ requests for data, and ignore lawmakers’ questions – if he hadn’t thrown the CIO under the bus, taking no responsibility whatsoever for the lies. In his statement, Pai blamed the former CIO and the Obama administration for providing “inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people.”
He went on to say that the CIO’s subordinates were scared of disagreeing with him and never approached Pai. If all of that is indeed true, the Chairman hasn’t clarified why he wouldn’t demand to see the evidence despite everyone out of the agency already believing that the DDoS claim was nothing but a lie to invalidate the comment process.
“It has become clear that in addition to a flawed comment system, we inherited from the prior Administration a culture in which many members of the Commission’s career IT staff were hesitant to express disagreement with the Commission’s former CIO in front of FCC management. Thankfully, I believe that this situation has improved over the course of the last year. But in the wake of this report, we will make it clear that those working on information technology at the Commission are encouraged to speak up if they believe that inaccurate information is being provided to the Commission’s leadership.”
The statement comes as the result of an independent investigation by the Government Accountability Office that is to be published soon. However, looking at Pai’s statement it is clear what this report is going to say.
As a reminder, the current FCC leadership didn’t only concoct this story of the DDoS attack. It had also tried to bolster its false claims by suggesting that this wasn’t the first such incident as the FCC had suffered a similar attack in 2014 under the former chairman Tom Wheeler. It had also tried to claim that Wheeler had lied about the true nature of the attack back in 2014 to save the agency from embarrassment. The former Chairman then went on record to call on Pai’s FCC for lying to the public as there was no cyberattack under his leadership.
Pai throws CIO under the bus; takes no responsibility
And now it appears the FCC was also lying about the true nature of the failure of comment system in 2017. In his statement released today, Pai is once again blaming [PDF] the Obama administration for feeding him inaccurate information.
I am deeply disappointed that the FCC’s former [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.
It remains unclear why the new team that replaced Bray nearly a year ago didn’t debunk what is being called a “conspiracy theory” and came clean about it.
Some redacted emails received through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the American Oversight had previously revealed that the false theory around 2014 cyberattack in order to justify 2017 attack also appeared in a draft copy of a blog post written on behalf of Pai. That draft was never published online to keep Pai’s hands clean since there was no evidence to support FCC’s claims of a malicious attack. These details were then instead sent out to media through which this narrative was publicized.
“The Inspector General Report tells us what we knew all along: the FCC’s claim that it was the victim of a DDoS attack during the net neutrality proceeding is bogus,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworce wrote. “What happened instead is obvious – millions of Americans overwhelmed our online system because they wanted to tell us how important internet openness is to them and how distressed they were to see the FCC roll back their rights. It’s unfortunate that this agency’s energy and resources needed to be spent debunking this implausible claim.”