Lawmakers ask Ajit Pai about false DDoS claims

Galtero Lara
Agosto 19, 2018

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told a Senate committee Thursday that he relied on the agency's chief information officer in claiming that the FCC had suffered a cyberattack previous year after people experienced difficulties filing online comments regarding the future of net neutrality rules - even though Pai suspected that this wasn't the case.

It was only last week that the commission finally admitted the DDoS attack claim might have been bogus, a day before the FCC's inspector general made his report on the incident public. Such attacks knock web pages offline by swamping them with data requests. A recently released internal FCC report sheds light on internal agency system failures that caused the website to crash, not a cyberattack.

In May 2017, the commission claimed it was the victim of multiple cyberattacks that, for several key hours, impaired its ability to accept public comments.

Now several congressional Democrats want answers from Pai about what he knew of the supposed attack and when. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the House Commerce Committee, led the group in sending a letter and a list of questions to the chairman on Tuesday. "Such ignorance would signify a dereliction of your duty as the head of the FCC, particularly due to the severity of the allegations and blatant lack of evidence".

The FCC's press office did not respond to a request today for comment on the letter.

At the hearing Thursday in the Senate, lawmakers will have their first opportunity to ask Pai in person about the report and his agency's decision-making surrounding the broader debate over net neutrality. Initially, FCC officials claimed the site went down due to a series of DDoS attacks. He was told by the Inspector General not to say anything. "Our claim that the agency suffered a DDoS attack following John Oliver's report on net neutrality is just not credible", Rosenworcel said.

Pai has squarely put the blame on Bray.

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Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., asked Pai whether the FCC is going to fix the problem of map inaccuracy.

When the report came out last week, Pai said that it showed he was lied to by the FCC's former CIO, David Bray, a holdover from the Obama administration, and that his office had no part in spreading the false information.

"This is completely unacceptable", he continued.

"It is troubling that you allowed the public myth created by the FCC to persist and your misrepresentations to remain uncorrected for over a year", they wrote. The group called Chairman Pai an "embarrassment".

"We knew he was lying about his reasons for killing net neutrality", Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement.

"We wanted you to get this information sooner", Pai told the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday.

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