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A Response to Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich’s Challenge to Software Engineers
The book signing by former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, at the Press Club turned out to be more than what I bargained for. The former House Speaker who was on tour supporting his book titled Understanding Trump took my question during the Q & A session of his tour. It was a simple question (paraphrasing) – “How can federal technology Whistleblowers work with the Trump Administration?” His responses were straight and to the point:
- “Implement the laws of the United States as they relate to your job and obey the law”. In addition, the Speaker suggested that our organization should;
- “Come forward and offer specific advice as to how we can deal with Cyber Security issues.” Lastly, the Speaker challenge our organization were;
- “To come up with 6 to 8 common steps” in addressing cyber security issues, then he would “personally get those points to the White House.”
Wow! What a challenge. The idea of writing a memorandum that may be used to formulate an opinion on the issues of cyber security that could possibly be considered for policy change or enhancement is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Therefore, on behalf of our organization, Federal Software Engineers and Data Scientists, we accept this challenge.
- Laws and Orders
The subject of Cyber Security is a complex and politicized issue. The Russian hacking, private email servers, and government data breaches have dominated the public airwaves in mainstream media. Hence, one thing is very clear; the American public has a major problem with Information Technology at the highest levels of government. Ironically, there are legislative statutes on the books that offer assistance in addressing cyber security.
The Federal Information Systems and Management Act (FISMA) regulate the policy that addresses the training and certifications of IT professionals. In addition, Congress has implemented other cyber related legislation such as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA). However, my personal favorite legislation are the Data Act and the Open Government executive orders.
The Data Act and the Open Government Initiatives should be considered “where the rubber hits the road” legislation. It provides the legal and regulatory framework upon which the public may participate and contribute to the mission of federal and state agencies. These frameworks make federal agency data available to software developers and enable them to create applications and systems that integrate with both the federal and private sector entities.
- The Deep State
The Deep State is term used to describe ‘Organized Criminal’ activity that is embedded within a governmental structure. Hence, the ‘Deep State’ theorists suggest that this criminal activity overrides the legitimate constitutional governmental processes at the expense of the basic civil liberties of its citizens. In addition, the Deep State cuts across all three branches of government involving the collusion of state and federal actors with private sector enterprises.
Mr. Mike Lofgren, author of The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government in chapter two of his book in a section labeled, The Visible State and the Invisible State, describes the ‘Deep State’ as a “shadowy and indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capital.” Mr. Lofgren is a 28-year career federal employee and budget officer with the House and Senate Budget Committees. His tenure as a career budget officer and his observations of congressional suspicious accounting activities over a sustained period of time is what led him to postulate the ‘Deep State’ theory applied to the United States.
Unfortunately, the ‘Deep State’ theory could easily be deemed and labeled conspiracy theory jargon. However, in my opinion, the ‘Deep State’ theory does have a place within the framework of modern times based within a historical context. Mr. Lofgren use of the term ‘Invisible State’ in chapter two of his book could be synonymous with author William Rawlings in his book titled The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire: Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s.
Both authors use of the term ‘Invisible State’ describes “private and state actors” that are hidden from public view, yet act in plain sight. The actors are employed as judges, lawyers, law enforcement officers, governors, and legislative officials. Hence, the action and collusion of these actors use of the democratic instruments (courts, legislature, executive agencies) are used in collusion with private actors to suppress and deny their fellow citizens of their constitutional and civil rights with economic motives and financial gains.
- Unmasking the Deep State
In order to truly unmask the ‘Deep State’ concept; we must put the term in an academic framework that could be measured both qualitatively and quantitatively. In the international community the term ‘Corruption’ is used to describe government abuse and the theft of public resources committed by state and federal officials. Therefore, loan officers at the World Bank, (UNDP) and IMF have corruption publications and reports to determine risk assessment to recipient countries based on quantitative formulas and algorithms that determines the standards of a loan.
In the fall of 2009, I took a position with the GSA Office of Inspector General. The Inspector General office are law enforcement officials that oversee the lawful activity of federal employees. Their jurisdiction is limited to their assigned and designated federal agency its charted congressional mandate. As a contractor-employee assigned to this agency, I attended training sessions and on some occasions would get morning briefings from the Department of Justice (DOJ). In my capacity I learned more about the term “Fraud, Waste and Abuse”. These terms were used to encapsulate the abuse of power, theft of public resources and loss U.S. tax dollars.
Hence, the unmasking of the term ‘Deep State’ starts with providing a definition that is ‘Corruption’ unchecked over a sustained period of time. The period of time provides a measurable index along with other variables that allows us to determines the size, scope, complexity, and organizational structure that has morphed into an ‘Invisible State’ or ‘Invisible Empire’.
- A Scientific & Engineering Approach
The Data Act along with a few Presidential executive orders created a data platform with technical tools such as: APIs, XML Schemas, and JSON formatted data that are available to the public. Hence, data portals such as Data.gov, USASpending.gov, and a multitude of other federal agencies opened their agency website data portals to the public under a subdirectory named ‘Open’. Therefore, anyone can access these portals by typing the agency domain such as treasury.gov/Open or usda.gov/Open.
On July 17, 2009 we officially launched the ‘iSonar’ Open Government project and on July 31st, 2015; I received my official software copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office. The iSonar project is a software platform that measures fraud, waste, and the abuse of federal agency resources. This project then was able to quantitatively measure the impact and financial assessments in selected congressional districts.
On March 8, 2011, I spoke to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology committee (PCAST) (See obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/administration/eop/ostp/pcast/) about the iSonar project and submitted a written statement to the Committee that included three case studies of financial fraudulent activities that were submitted to federal law enforcement officials.
Finally, on April 12, 2016, I attended the U.S. Senate Finance Committee meeting titled ‘Cybersecurity and Protecting Taxpayer Information’ panel discussion with top senior agency officials. In a written statement, I advised the committee that they “Must consider encouraging the executive branch to consider monitoring sophisticated ‘shadow’ and ‘ghost’ applications that mimic official government systems.” In the context of Cyber Security, these type of applications are called complex Trojans that are attached and embedded within the core technical infrastructure of the federal agencies.
- The Devil is in the DATA Act
In Advising the new Administration, I would strongly suggest that legislation such as the DATA Act should be revised and strengthen. This legislation and others like it provide the necessary platform to detect and measure the damages associated with cyber intrusions. Hence, complex Trojans embedded within legacy agency systems are difficult to detect and will oftentimes require the combination of subject matter experts, policy analyst and Whistleblowers.
Therefore, data can be similar to a crystal ball which requires the appropriate combination of variables, algorithms, and mathematical formulas in order to see the ‘Devil’ hiding within. It is my opinion, that the easy portion is identifying these structures and actors. The hard portion for this administration is the battle of ideas, culture and norms.
- The Cultural Dilemma
The challenge in addressing the corruption within the US Federal Government is made difficult do to the cultural belief that America could never be corrupt. The citizens of this great nation will accept terms to describe government as ‘grid locked’ or ‘broken’ but never corrupt. Therefore, state and private actors who engage in large-scale corrupt practices are often successful and admired by the general public. This is evident when looking at historical criminal figures such as ‘Billy the Kid’, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and ‘Al Capone’ who are considered folklore heroes.
In order to successfully combat the ‘Deep State’ empire, the Trump Administration will have to adopt a realistic model and approach to the problem. Hence, President Trump, as like prior leaders throughout American history, will have to take decisive legal action and back it up with force. This is evident with other past leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and the signing the ‘Proclamation Emancipation’ executive order and Ulysses S. Grant signing into law the ‘Enforcement Acts’ whereas he later had to send federal troops in the southern states to enforce those laws.
- President Trump vs The Deep State
In Mr. Gingrich book Understanding Trump; a segment in the early chapter quotes President Donald Trump as saying, “Just remember, I win. I always win. I am not quite sure how, but by Election Day we will be winning.” This insatiable appetite to win is a character trait that is often found in top athletes from around the world. Therefore, if there is any President that will take on the challenge of the Deep State, then President Trump is the best candidate. What he must do to “Win” is become a Grandmaster of the complex Chessboard of Politics. Therefore, once he’s mastered the complexity of the chessboard and how all the pieces work, then and only then will he be in a better position to make decisive decisions.
In closing, the President must focus on the core financial systems that support the ‘Deep State’. In reference to Mr. Gingrich’s challenge to “come forward and offer specific advice as to how to deal with cyber security issues;” we propose the following and suggest a national debate on the issue with other engineers and data scientist offering their suggestions:
Decisive Actions and Executive Orders
- “Whistleblower Protection Act” (Include contractors in the intelligence sector i.e. NSA, CIA)
- “Revise the FISMA” (GSA oversight over procurement & abolish the GAO dispute office)
- “Repeal the FAST Act” (Private contractors should NOT be involved in IRS Tax collection)
- “Revise the H1B Visa” (H1B visa holders should NOT work on federal financial systems)
- “Revise the Records Management Act” (All fed records should be digitized before shredding)