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Verizon Quits ALEC After Group Hands Microphone to Right-Wing Provocateur David Horowitz

Down one big member — Verizon

Verizon has quit the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate funded alliance between big business and Republican state lawmakers, after right-wing activist David Horowitz used a guest appearance at the 45th ALEC Annual Meeting in New Orleans to launch into a tirade against opponents of President Donald Trump, claiming Democrats are socialists bent on attacking traditional American values.

To rousing applause from many of the 1,500 legislators and lobbyists in attendance, Horowitz used two speeches to attack the LGBTQ community, people of color, public education, feminism, gender equality, and the rights of women to seek independent access to reproductive healthcare.

Specifically, Horowitz claimed public schools are “indoctrination and recruitment centers for the Democratic party and its socialist left” and that “school curricula had been turned over to racist organizations like Black Lives Matter and terrorist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood.” On a later panel, Horowitz told the audience Trump had not gone far enough attacking his enemies, and defended the president’s remarks calling a woman “a pig.” Those who disagreed were called “communists” by Horowitz.  He also argued the United States could only have been founded by Protestant Christians.

Horowitz speaks at ALEC conference in August 2018.

The incendiary remarks are nothing new for Horowitz, who repeatedly called President Barack Obama “a secret Muslim” and sponsors a website that claims Muslim migrants are carriers of infectious disease and predators with a “violent lust for ‘white’ women.”

Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Wisc.) attends ALEC events often to learn more about what the opposition is doing. Her observations from this year’s conference reflect ALEC in disarray, as the formerly unified, corporate-focused group is becoming more fragmented as emboldened right-wing activists demand a voice at the table.

They want state’s rights, except when they don’t. The same contradiction is evident with their struggle with local control–sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t. The defining factor is whether these levels of government promote the far-right ALEC agenda. It is getting harder and harder for ALEC to ignore these internal contradictions.

And there are visible cracks in ALEC world. Collectively, this was the messiest and least disciplined ALEC conference I have attended since 2013. In the energy task force, presentations were all over the place. A natural gas and electricity supplier went off script by openly discussing the billions in subsidies the oil and gas industry receives. There was silence in the crowded task force room, filled with fossil fuel producers and lobbyists.

[…] In the Health and Human Services task force, the Goldwater Institute and Buckeye Foundation were in a tizzy because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was still in existence and the left seemed to win that war, at least for now. How could it be, they moaned, when Republicans are in charge of EVERYTHING? They whined that the “debacle of last year was horrible” and that Congress wouldn’t touch another repeal with a 10-foot poll. So, 100 conservative groups came together to propose an alternative plan that guts the ACA, again. But the list was messy and confusing, and even the presenters seemed doubtful their plan would ever succeed.

But the biggest disaster I have ever seen at an ALEC conference was on a panel about the Convention of States (COS) project. COS is mobilizing in states to call an Article V Constitutional Convention for the purposes of amending the federal constitution by passing a balanced budget amendment, term-limits for federal judges, and who knows what else. One of the key speakers was right-wing provocateur David Horowitz. Horowitz is listed in a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) report published by Alternet with the title “10 of America’s Most Dangerous Hatemongers”.

After converting from being a Marxist decades ago, Horowitz now runs his own right-wing think tank, bankrolled to the tune of $3.4 million by the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, according to the Center for Media and Democracy. Horowitz gained recent fame as a key mentor of Trump advisor Stephen Miller, the man behind Trump’s family separation policy according to the Atlantic.

[…] ALEC is moving into dangerous territory. Despite the formidable infrastructure they have built over 45 years, their control of 33 state legislatures and their hordes of corporate cash that perpetually grease their wheels, the organization seems to be increasingly in disarray and in an identity crisis. While simultaneously distancing themselves from the chaos and corruption of President Trump, the reality is that they need him, and his hate-mongering, to further the foundation of their right-wing agenda–gutting the ACA and federal conservation standards, repealing workers’ rights, pushing down wages and privatizing public education.

And so the Horowitz’s of the world, who ALEC at least publicly has kept at a distance during my tenure, are now becoming part of the ALEC universe. Are ALEC supporters, including their corporate funders, willing to embrace this hate-mongering to continue to advance their corporate agenda?

Horowitz’s brand of politics may be popular with party activists, but corporate ALEC members are more concerned about their public image.

After Horowitz’s appearance, Verizon notified ALEC it was resigning from the group.

“Our company has no tolerance for racist, white supremacist or sexist comment or ideals,” a Verizon spokesperson said in a statement.

It is a severe blow to ALEC, which welcomed Verizon as a dues paying member in 1988, when Verizon lobbyist Ron Scheberle served as chairman of ALEC’s board.

ALEC’s damage control effort came in a statement to the press:

ALEC takes speaker vetting seriously and—in partnership with meeting sponsors—applies a rigorous process to identify speakers on important matters of public policy. Each speaker is apprised of the ALEC policy focus, how to address the audience and what issues not to discuss. ALEC does not work on social issues. Rather it focuses on limited government, free markets and federalism at the intersection of the economy and public policy.

In this case, the speaker was advised of the program parameters and did not abide the process.

Upon learning of concern following the conclusion of remarks, ALEC staff removed the video archive of the livestream and ceased promotion of the speech as the comments were inconsistent with the manner in which speeches are offered at ALEC.

ALEC was launched to give its corporate members and lobbyists direct access to state legislators to shepherd corporate ghost-written bills into state laws or at least heavily influence members’ bills to make them corporate-friendly. In some cases, corporate-written “model bills” were adopted word-for-word by some state legislatures and became law, with the help of Republican support and co-sponsors.

Rep. Taylor

Verizon and other telecom company members like Comcast and AT&T have benefited handsomely from membership in ALEC, successfully pushing through state laws for statewide video franchising, eliminating local control over cable television providers, pole attachment and zoning reform for wireless companies, working to eliminate universal service obligations and regulatory oversight for landline service, state bans on municipal broadband competition, and most recently working to stop states from writing their own net neutrality provisions to replace those lost on the federal level.

ALEC has always maintained close ties to Republicans and its deep pocketed corporate members. But until recently, it has usually shied away from headlining lightning rod social issues out of deference to its controversy-shy corporate members.

Horowitz’s remarks, live-streamed across the internet by ALEC, may have been the final straw for Verizon. In late August, 79 public interest and environmental groups co-signed a letter to ALEC members drawing attention to Horowitz’s remarks and asking companies to leave the group for good.

“Make no mistake, your continued financial support of ALEC is an endorsement of this dangerous vision for our country,” the letter said.

It’s also apparently bad for business.

David Horowitz speaking at 2018 ALEC Conference in New Orleans, La. on Aug. 10, 2018. (17:51)

FCC’s Inspector General Finds Chairman Ajit Pai Made Up Claimed Denial of Service Attack

Phillip Dampier August 7, 2018 Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't 2 Comments

Pai

The FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai “misrepresented facts and provided misleading responses” to the public and Congress about an alleged “distributed denial of service attack” (DDoS) that caused the FCC’s website to crash as millions of Americans shared their comments about net neutrality.

In a damning report released today by the FCC’s independent Inspector General, an investigation found the claimed attack never happened and the FCC’s ongoing public statements about it were demonstrably false.

The investigation into the alleged “attack” on the FCC’s electronic comment system (ECFS) on May 7-8, 2017 took several months to complete. Its findings were released after Pai was able to issue a broadly distributed press release critics claim is an effort to change the story and get ahead of the report itself, which was issued late this afternoon.

A DDoS attack overwhelms a website with a barrage of invalid traffic that eventually makes the target server unresponsive. The FCC claimed the attack was responsible for preventing people from leaving comments for hours after John Oliver brought up the subject of net neutrality on his HBO Show “Last Week Tonight” last year.

But in fact, it was the sheer volume of comments from the public that were responsible for slowing down the website — a politically inconvenient fact for net neutrality opponents (including Pai).

Highlights from the Inspector General’s 106-page report:

On May 7, 2017, at 11:30 pm EDT, the ECFS experienced a significant increase in the level of traffic attempting to access the system, resulting in the disruption of system availability. In fact, information obtained from, a contractor providing web performance and cloud security solutions to the FCC, identified a 3,116% increase in traffic to ECFS between May 7 and May 8, 2017.

The investigation matched traffic spikes to John Oliver’s show airing and the posting of videos and social media announcements about net neutrality.

On May 8, 2017, the FCC issued a press release in which the FCC’s former Chief Information Officer (CIO) Dr. David Bray provided the following statement regarding the cause of delays experienced by consumers trying to file comments on ECFS:

“Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS)[2]. These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host. These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC. While the comment system remained up and running the entire time, these DDoS events tied up the servers and prevented them from responding to people attempting to submit comments. We have worked with our commercial partners to address this situation and will continue to monitor developments going forward.”

Our investigation did not substantiate the allegations of multiple DDoS attacks alleged by Bray. While we identified a small amount of anomalous activity and could not entirely rule out the possibility of individual DoS attempts during the period from May 7 through May 9, 2017, we do not believe this activity resulted in any measurable degradation of system availability given the miniscule scale of the anomalous activity relative to the contemporaneous voluminous viral traffic.

Here is what a net neutrality campaign going viral looks like. As Oliver’s show reached more viewers, many took time to visit the FCC’s website to submit comments, causing the server to slow to a crawl.

The degradation of ECFS system availability was likely the result of a combination of: (1) “flash crowd” activity resulting from the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episode that aired on May 7, 2017 through the links provided by that program for filing comments in the proceeding; and (2) high volume traffic resulting from system design issues.

The conclusion that the event involved multiple DDoS attacks was not based on substantive analysis and ran counter to other opinions including those of the ECFS subject matter expert and the Chief of Staff.

As a result of our reviews and the findings articulated above, we determined the FCC, relying on Bray’s explanation of the events, misrepresented facts and provided misleading responses to Congressional inquiries related to this incident.

The fact millions of Americans were willing to visit a little-known FCC comment website to share their passionate views on net neutrality ran contrary to Chairman Pai’s claims that many comments were faked, demonstrated a lack of understanding of how net neutrality worked, or were otherwise not to be taken seriously. Pai even called net neutrality supporters “Chicken Littles” during a July 25 congressional hearing.

Pai’s public statements downplaying public comments on net neutrality might lose credibility if the FCC admitted the issue of net neutrality went viral and Americans were sharing their views in unprecedented numbers. Instead, the FCC repeatedly questioned the veracity of the comments, claimed an engineered attack — not dissent — caused the website to crash, and refused to participate in an investigation with the New York Attorney General’s office to uncover the origin of the alleged attack.

Pai’s press release tried to shift attention away from this damning conclusion from the FCC’s Inspector General.

Pai, in an effort to get out ahead of the unflattering report from the Inspector General, issued a press release blaming the affair on the flawed “culture” of the Obama Administration.

“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,” Pai said in a statement. “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.”

“Second, 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,” Pai added.

Jessica Rosenworcel, the only remaining Democrat on the Commission, dismissed Pai’s attempts to lay blame for the problems on the former administration.

Bray – the scapegoat?

“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,” said Rosenworcel. “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.”

Pai’s chief scapegoat is David Bray, the FCC’s chief information officer from 2013-2017. Pai accused Bray of misleading him and other FCC officials about the source of the slowdowns and interruptions on the website.

“Yes, we’re 99.9% confident this was external folks deliberately trying to tie-up the server to prevent others from commenting and/or create a spectacle,” Pai quoted Bray as telling him during the May 2017 incident. Bray also acted as an anonymous source for several reporters, claiming a similar DDoS attack occurred in 2014 over net neutrality, a claim hotly disputed by FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler at the time and called “flat-out false” by Gigi Sohn, a senior counselor to Wheeler.

Fact or Fiction?: Bray claimed 4Chan’s “troll” army was invited to the fight by John Oliver.

Bray also claimed, without evidence, John Oliver “invited the ‘trolls'” from controversial website 4Chan to participate in the attack, suggesting the posting of Oliver’s segment on net neutrality was what “triggered the trolls.”

An exhaustive investigation of the FCC’s traffic logs found no evidence of an orchestrated DDoS attack, and the Inspector General used charts to show tremendous traffic spikes generated as Oliver’s campaign went viral.

Pai’s press release attempts to change the subject and divert attention away from the uncomfortable findings that suggest the FCC under his leadership openly deceived both the public and Congress. Instead of admitting he allowed the agency to continue claiming an outside attack on the FCC’s website was responsible for the incident, he praised himself and his office for what he claimed were findings that “debunk the conspiracy theory that my office or I had any knowledge that the information provided by the former CIO was inaccurate and was allowing that inaccurate information to be disseminated for political purposes.”

That directly contradicts the reports conclusion: “As a result of our reviews and the findings articulated above, we determined the FCC, relying on Bray’s explanation of the events, misrepresented facts and provided misleading responses to Congressional inquiries related to this incident.”

Data Cap Vendor Shows Off “Revenue Accelerator,” Helping Cable Companies Monetize Usage

Phillip Dampier July 24, 2018 Consumer News, Data Caps, Net Neutrality No Comments

OpenVault’s technology can automatically slow down “abusers” who use too much internet service.

Cable companies looking for ways to raise prices for their broadband services without spending money on network upgrades may be interested in OpenVault’s “Revenue Accelerator” — a cloud based internet usage measurement system that can help push subscribers into higher priced tiers or warn them when they are about to face punitive overlimit fees for exceeding their monthly usage allowance.

OpenVault’s goal is to monetize customers’ internet usage, making cable operators certain each customer is paying as much as possible for internet service without facing customer-displeasing overlimit fees from exceeding their monthly usage allowance.

“All these solutions are designed really to do of a couple things,” said OpenVault CEO and founder Mark Trudeau, in an interview with FierceTelecom. “One is to drive incremental revenues, and two is to drive costs [for cable operators] down, all with the idea of increasing profit for cable operators.”

OpenVault will collect customers’ usage behaviors, reporting back every 15 minutes how much bandwidth each customer is using, as well as enforcing cable company policies to automatically slow down “abusers” who are sending and receiving more than their fair share of data. Enforced network management, built into the platform, can automatically punish customers based on violations of the ISP’s Acceptable Use Policies. Usage violators are then reported to the cable operator, targeted for future marketing campaigns to upgrade their service to a more expensive tier to avoid further time-outs on the internet slow lane.

The technology is cheap to deploy, relying on a set of command lines inserted into cable modem termination systems that collect Internet Protocol Detail Record data and send it on to OpenVault.

“We measure all that for the operators and then what our Revenue Accelerator product does is it helps them micro-target their upgrade candidates,” Trudeau said. “This can have just really massive impacts on their revenues, to be able to truly not just micro-target the upgrade candidates, but also provide their reps with the ammunition they need and the visibility they need into their customer’s behavior and into their homes so they can intelligently talk to a subscriber.”

OpenVault claims the implementation of usage based billing and data caps are immediate money-makers for operators, both from current customers forced to upgrade to avoid the cap and from overall usage billing that delivers an immediate payday to cable operators without having to invest in expensive upgrades or service improvements.

“In real-number terms, evidence shows an immediate return as some OpenVault customers have enjoyed as much as seven percent of subscribers upgrading their service within 90 days of usage based billing deployment,” the company wrote on its blog. “For some operators, this translates into increased ARPU (average revenue per unit) of over $5 per subscriber per month. OpenVault customers that have deployed usage based billing have experienced increased ARPU ranging from $1.50 up to $12 per subscriber per month.”

FCC’s Ajit Pai Promises to Protect Internet Consumers By Not Protecting Them

Christmas comes early for Comcast and AT&T, thanks to Ersatz Santa, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

In the view of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his Republican colleagues serving as members of the Federal Communications Commission, Monday – June 11, 2018 is Internet Freedom Day, marking the official end of net neutrality. Republican FCC commissioners, working hand-in-hand with the nation’s largest telecommunications companies, successfully abolished a pro-consumer rule that ensured all internet traffic was treated equally by your internet service provider, with a ban on paid fast lanes and other types of traffic discrimination. 

The FCC website has a new look today, one that discourages consumers from bringing internet-related complaints to an agency that has invited consumers to reach out about unresolved internet problems since the earliest days of internet access.

While much of the country is focused on the Republicans’ successful repeal of open internet protections, many might have missed the fact the FCC also intends to ‘pass the buck’ on your internet problems to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an agency that can take a year or more to bring action against companies suspected of violating the law.

Consumers who visit the FCC’s Consumer Complaint Center will find a stripped down resource that now primarily exists to forward consumer complaints to another federal agency. Chairman Pai has made certain the experience is as discouraging as possible for those who manage to find their way to the FCC’s complaint department (emphasis ours):

If you choose to file an informal complaint with the FCC about an Internet-related issue, we will share the information you provide, including your name and contact information, with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Your complaint may be used to investigate cases or in a legal proceeding.

Before proceeding with your submission, please note that an informal consumer complaint should only be filed at the FCC if you have a specific issue with your provider.

If you are interested in submitting an informal complaint about an Internet-related issue, please complete this form.

The old form made no mention of the FTC, which is central to Pai’s new “hands off” policy at the FCC.

This morning, Pai told CBS that the Federal Trade Commission will now work to prevent such cases of “bad apples in the internet economy” from ripping off consumers.

“We’ve empowered the FTC to take action against any company that might act in any anti-competitive way,” said Pai. “The consumer is going to be protected and we preserve the incentive for companies to build out better, faster, and cheaper internet access. Consumers need to be protected and the FTC is the only one under current law that can do that.”

But Pai’s claims don’t ring true to Gigi Sohn, who served as a counselor to former FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler.

Sohn

“Should consumers or innovators have a complaint about fraudulent, discriminatory, privacy violating or predatory pricing practices of broadband ISPs, the FCC won’t answer their call,” Sohn said. “For the first time since the creation of broadband, the agency will not take responsibility for protecting consumers or competition.”

Neither will the FTC, which warns would-be complainants upfront on its website: “The FTC cannot resolve individual complaints, but we can provide information about what next steps to take,” which is equivalent to calling the fire department because your house is on fire and receiving a booklet that explains how to acquire and use a hose to put the fire out yourself.

ISP’s no longer need fear having a federal agency like the FCC following every consumer complaint. The FTC claims it may share your complaint with local, state, federal, and foreign law enforcement partners, or may be used to investigate cases or hold a legal proceeding. But unlike the guidelines the FCC answered to under the Obama Administration, there is no requirement to force a provider to quickly respond to you, no easy access to statistics detailing received internet-related complaints (such as the tens of thousands of complaints about data caps, throttling, and net neutrality collected by the FCC under the last administration), and no significant likelihood of action. Want an example? The FTC has been charged with ending the scourge of automated robocalls that generated more than 275,000 complaints last year… from the state of Ohio alone. In the last two years, the FTC issued press releases touting cases brought against a total of three alleged telemarketers. Has your phone stopped ringing?

Under the Trump Administration’s FCC, it is open season on consumers, and the complaint department is now closed.

“Alternative Facts:” FCC E-Mails Reveal Agency Lied About Denial-of-Service Attack

A well-coordinated campaign to manufacture news of a phony cyberattack and give false information to the press to explain why the FCC’s electronic comment system crashed while news of net neutrality went viral has been exposed.

Internal agency emails reviewed by Gizmodo show a clear intention by some agency officials to deceive the media and the public about the nature of serious outages in the regulator’s electronic public comment system during high profile coverage of net neutrality, blaming the outages on an organized distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack that appears to have never happened.

On the night of May 7, 2017, John Oliver did a segment about net neutrality on his HBO show Last Week Tonight. At the end of his piece, he urged viewers to send comments to the FCC in support of net neutrality. It was the second time Oliver’s viewers brought the FCC’s electronic comments system to its knees. After intense demand effectively locked up the system after Oliver discussed net neutrality in 2014, the FCC promised to improve the commenting system to accommodate more traffic. FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler said in 2014 the downtime could be attributed to massive interest in the issue of internet freedom from ordinary Americans.

But three years later, a new administration hostile to net neutrality and a new FCC chairman had a different story about just how interested Americans really were. Wheeler’s story was replaced by Ajit Pai’s claims that real people are not that interested in net neutrality and that the downtime, as well as what he calls “fake comments” left on the system, are the result of nefarious deeds by an unknown party or parties. Pai and his staffers have systematically attempted to de-legitimize and gaslight supporters of net neutrality. In condescending tones, Pai and his allies claimed ordinary Americans were hoodwinked into supporting net neutrality by radical internet groups that have managed to fool them. By also calling into question the legitimacy of millions of comments from net neutrality supporters, Pai and his industry friends have had an easier time decapitating net neutrality protections, despite their widespread popularity.

Gizmodo reports the FCC under Pai and the Trump Administration is extraordinarily secretive about the issue. The agency has refused to produce any credible evidence of a denial of service attack, even when members of the media have sued the agency for the information and members of Congress have demanded to see the evidence.

Gizmodo:

[I]n May 2017, under the Trump-appointed chairman, Ajit Pai, at least two FCC officials quietly pushed a fallacious account of the 2014 incident, attempting to persuade reporters that the comment system had long been the target of DDoS attacks. “There *was* a DDoS event right after the [John Oliver] video in 2014,” one official told reporters at FedScoop, according to emails reviewed by Gizmodo.

David Bray, who served as the FCC’s chief information officer from 2013 until June 2017, assured reporters in a series of off-the-record exchanges that a DDoS attack had occurred three years earlier. More shocking, however, is that Bray claimed Wheeler, the former FCC chairman, had covered it up.

According to emails from Bray to reporters, Wheeler was concerned that if the FCC publicly admitted there was an attack, it would likely incite “copycats.”

“That’s just flat out false,” said Gigi Sohn, former counselor to Chairman Wheeler. “We didn’t want to say it because Bray had no hard proof that it was a DDoS attack. Just like the second time.”

Bray’s exchanges with reporters, which took place via email, were obtained by American Oversight, a watchdog group, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Gizmodo reviewed the more than 1,300 pages of records last week.

Bray

Most of the claims about a nefarious (and convenient) cyberattack seem to have originated from Bray, the senior official responsible for maintaining the comment system. A subsequent rambling response to the Gizmodo piece written by Bray was posted this morning to Medium.

In it, Bray recasts himself as a victim of a tech reporter who never called him and the general nature of partisan politics in Washington. Bray repeatedly claimed he was nobily working tirelessly to make sure “actual people” could comment on the high-profile issue of net neutrality. Unfortunately, he offered no proof in the form of logs or contemporaneous e-mails or written memos to prove what could be a plausible alternative theory of the traffic jam (namely, a person or persons unknown wrote poorly developed scripts to automatically submit comments to the FCC’s electronic comment system that had the unintended side effect of hopelessly clogging it.) In Washington, staffers confronting a high-profile problem likely to be noticed by their employers and become the fodder of political debate have learned the habit of saving everything, if only to avoid the kind of “guilty until proven innocent” standard of partisan-influenced investigations. The controversy has now achieved exactly the kind of high-profile prominence staffers generally dread.

“I have seen no evidence of a DDoS attack on the FCC comment system,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told Gizmodo, in a direct contradiction of Bray. “But I did see millions of Americans write in to the FCC to stop its misguided effort to roll back net neutrality. It’s time for the agency to own up to what really happened.”

FCC staffers under the current chairman have a track record of being combative and secretive. There have been occasions when Stop the Cap! has tangled with Matthew Berry, Ajit Pai’s chief of staff. Berry, and other staffers, have been willing to engage in hand-to-hand combat on Twitter and other forms of social media and pass around pro-industry talking points routinely condemning the Obama Administration and the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler, while generally supporting large telecom companies:

When not on Twitter, staffers like Bray often serve as off-the-record sources for news services like FedScoop, while also feeding talking points and fake details about the cyberattack-that-wasn’t to the Wall Street Journal. The resulting article proved particularly useful to Bray and the FCC, which used the published news story as ‘independent evidence’ from ‘a third party’ that the attacks were real.

As investigative reporters made it clear they were not going to let the story go, top officials at the FCC have since circled the wagons and have done everything possible to keep the story from leaking out. In the more than 1,300 emails obtained by American Oversight in May, the FCC redacted every internal communication about the 2017 “cyberattack” and how to handle it in the press, citing attorney-client communications or the catch-all “deliberative process privilege” — the favorite obstructive choice of secretive federal agencies looking for a way around Sunshine Laws by denying access to any request for communications involving “governmental decisions and [how] policies are formulated.”

Gizmodo points out they also redacted discussions among FCC staffers about how to characterize the “attack” in response to inquiries from Congress. They even redacted a publicly posted Politico newsletter in full.

“Some of these messages are probably correctly redacted, but avoiding potential embarrassment is not a legitimate reason for the government to conceal an email,” Austin Evers, American Oversight’s executive director, said. “We were skeptical of the FCC’s explanations about its online comment system issues last May, and it’s clear that we still don’t have the full story about what happened.”

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