Ajit Pai said the FCC got hacked. Guess what? He lied

Ajit Pai isn’t famous for a close relationship with the truth. Earlier this year, we tried to catch him red-handed, saying something that was actually true. All we could find was his promise to dismantle net neutrality; otherwise, it was all Ajit Lies.

Turns out he’s been at it again.

Anyone who heard the official version of events – that the FCC website was hacked just at the moment when huge numbers of anti-repeal comments were coming in, and just before the deadline to submit such comments – would have a wearying sense of inevitability. I mean, it sounds like the kind of thing Ajit’s gang would do. It’s kind of like the time they hired astroturfers to submit pro-repeal comments by stealing the identities of people who had moved house – or even died. (Oh, and two sitting US Senators.)

But it’s tough to credit. Surely federal agencies don’t pull this my-dog-ate-my-homework stuff?

Not all of them, maybe, but Ajit Pai’s FCC sure does.

The FCC never got hacked – their own investigation says so

The FCC has been forced to admit that when it stopped accepting comments during the consultation period on net neutrality on the grounds that its website had been hacked, it was lying.

Pai tries to lay the blame at the feet of his recently-departed, Obama-appointed CIO, David Bray:

‘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.’

In other words, it’s all Obama’s fault.

Maybe. But that’s not what the FCC’s own Inspector General’s Report says.

It says the FCC:

  • Lied about being hacked, and Ajit Pai knew it was a lie at the time
  • Provided false information (there’s a word for that, right?) to members of Congress – which may or may not be a felony, depending how you slice it

The real cause? The FCC couldn’t keep up with their traffic

So what really happened? There was no cyberattack, as Pai’s FCC claimed. But they didn’t just shut down the site themselves. It really did crash. Thing is, it wasn’t brought down by a DDoS-attack; it was most likely knocked over by a massive uptick in legitimate traffic after TV’s John Oliver devoted a segment of Last Week Tonight to the issue of net neutrality and urged viewers to register their feelings.

The Inspector General’s Report does identify a small amount of anomalous activity,’ and does not ‘entirely rule out the possibility of individual DoS attempts during the period from May 7 through May 9, 2017’ – which sounds like a contradiction in terms, like a one-person flashmob – the office went on to say: ‘we do not believe this activity resulted in any measurable degradation of system availability given the minuscule scale of the anomalous activity relative to the contemporaneous voluminous viral traffic.’

So there’s no evidence that the actual failure of the site was ill-intentioned; it seems to just have been a failure, caused by the inability of the agency tasked with overseeing media usage to secure sufficient server space in case anyone wanted to use their website. The FCC didn’t kill their site on purpose – they just let it die and then lied about it.

Maybe the dog ate it.

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