Author: Gary Hibberd
Date: 22nd January 2021
Whichever side of the debate you stand, there can be no denying the last few months have been an exciting and highly emotional time in US politics. It’s a topic I’ve been interested in for some time. The last week was particularly interesting as I finished the biography of ‘Alexander Hamilton’, a founding father of the United States of America.
Alexander Hamilton (c 1755 – 1804)
Hamilton was probably best known for being one of the US financial system architects, and the aide, friend and right-hand man to the first President of the United States of America, George Washington. His life was not without controversy, as he was embroiled in the first political sex scandal in US history. Despite this, one can only imagine what he would have made of the recent presidency, race for the Whitehouse and election.
From his many letters and papers Hamilton once stated;
If it were to be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws – the first growing out of the last.
What would he have made of the outgoing Trump and the new Biden Administration?
Trump, Biden and Security
This blog isn’t to discuss the rights and wrongs of a presidency or comment on what Trump did, or did not do in his tenure in the White House. This requires far deeper analysis than a blog may allow for. However, I can focus on the question which revolves around security, the presidency and our modern era.
Trump; Governing by Twitter
From the outset, Trump’s presidential race against Hilary Clinton was full of controversy and accusations. We heard of sensitive emails from Clinton being ‘discovered’ on un-secure servers, Russian involvement in the election, and once Trump won the race, we discovered that Cambridge Analytica and Facebook were involved in helping the “persuadables” to land on the side of Trump. These were people who were seen to be undecided on which way to vote, and would need a little ‘nudge’ in the right (paying?) direction. How did they do this? Place’ pro-Trump’ stories, and negative stories of Clinton on to their pages; Thus the persuadables become persuaded. How much Trump knew is up for debate. Is it illegal? Debatable. Is it immoral? Unquestionably. But it is something that happens to us every day, as businesses strive to persuade us to buy their products and services or buy into their philosophy or cause.
I can say without much fear of contradiction, that Trump was the first president to use social media to such a large extent. Perhaps this is why he became so loved and hated in equal measure, as the common man and woman had direct access to the President, like never before. For right or wrong, there is no doubt that when Trump spoke on Twitter, the world reacted.
But he isn’t the only ‘head’ of an organisation that has caused a stir on social media by saying the wrong thing. This happens more than people know, but goes largely unnoticed for obvious reasons – Trump has millions of followers, and the world was watching.
In the closing months of his presidency, he claimed the election had been stolen from him, citing ballot rigging and ‘cyber interference’. Yet when his own head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Chris Krebs stated it was the most secure vote in American history, Trump responded by sacking him. It is not for me to comment on this, but will say that irrespective of what you believe – the issue is that people will forever question the validity of an election, where they think wrongdoing has been committed directly (ie. Hackers) or through manipulation (e.g Cambridge Analytica). Such is the stage for future elections, the world over.
Welcome to the Biden Administration
As the USA enters a new era, only time will tell what Biden will do and how his administration will be shaped by a digital landscape that is continually changing and evolving. I doubt we have heard the last of Trump and his supporters, and I’m sure they’ll be watching Biden carefully, to ensure he lives up to the promises he made.
We know that the Biden administration plans to elevate the importance of many cyber issues and restore two White House posts to prominence that was all but ignored during President Trump’s time in office. These are Homeland Security adviser and cybersecurity advisors.
We also know that the Bidens administration has appointed David Recordon as the White House director of technology. He is best known for his contribution to open standard authentication protocols and methods. This kind of progressive thinking is what is needed, as long as it is balanced with security and privacy needs.
It’s a tightrope that all leaders have to walk, and it’s a world that has already directly impacted President Biden, even before he moves into the Whitehouse. It has been reported that he won’t be able to take his ‘Peleton’ bike with him, due to Cybersecurity concerns. This is because the bike comes with a camera and microphone, and of course, it is hackable, as all smart devices are.
Will Biden and Trump affect our security is the title of this blog, and the answer is yes. ‘Security’ is the state of being free from danger or threat. The world in which we inhabit will never be free from danger and/or threats, and therefore any actions (positive or negative) will have an effect on our security.
In terms of government decisions, every action has impact and ramifications. Cybersecurity is a highly nuanced and complex topic made up of many parts. It will be interesting to see how the Biden Administration responds to this, over the next four years. But, if Biden is reading this, I’ll leave my final words of advice to Alexander Hamilton, and wish him luck for the future.
The true principle of government is this – make the system compleat in its structure; give a perfect proportion and balance to its parts, and the powers you give it will never affect your security.
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