GoLocalProv: Langevin Calls Mueller Indictment Most Significant Hacking Case in U.S. History

GoLocalProv: Langevin Calls Mueller Indictment Most Significant Hacking Case in U.S. History

Jim Langevin is calling Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers the most significant hacking case in U.S. history.

Congressman Jim Langevin is calling Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers the most significant hacking case in U.S. history.

Mueller indicted the Russian officers for distributing documents they had stolen from U.S. political organizations in an attempt to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

According to the Justice Department, the hacking targeted Clinton’s campaign, Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Langevin Released the Following Statement:

“This is the most significant hacking case the United States has ever brought against the agents of a foreign state. Russian interference in the 2016 election struck at the very core of our democracy, and the perpetrators must be held to account. This is another example of why Director Mueller’s investigation is so important and must be allowed to continue.

This indictment is an important part of that reckoning, but it is in no way sufficient. When a nation violates the norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, we must respond with all means of state power, economic, diplomatic and otherwise. It is simply unacceptable to use cyber means to steal and disseminate political documents with the goals of undermining faith in American democracy. Sadly, the President continues to cast doubt on the facts first set forth by our intelligence community and reiterated in today’s indictment. Given these developments, the President should cancel next week’s meeting with Vladimir Putin and work with Congress to punish Russia for its actions.

The indictments today continue to reinforce a clear message to America’s adversaries who would target civilian infrastructure and processes: you will be found out. Although we are unlikely to see these Russian military intelligence agents in an American prison anytime soon, their worlds have gotten much smaller. I look forward to continuing my work in Congress to hold Russia responsible for its actions and improve our cybersecurity posture.”

WPRO: Rhode Island Democrats to Trump: don’t meet with Putin

WPRO: Rhode Island Democrats to Trump: don’t meet with Putin

By WPRO News Team and the Associated Press

Three members of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation called on President Donald Trump to cancel his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted for alleged hacking offenses during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump and Putin are to meet Monday in Helsinki.

The Justice Department announced the indictments Friday as part of the special counsel probe into potential coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia.The indictment alleges a coordinated effort to break into Democratic email accounts.

Senator Jack Reed Reed said Trump should cancel the meeting in light of the “stunning indictment that these Russian conspirators attacked our democracy.”

Congressman David Cicilline reacted on Twitter, sharing a link to a Politico article on the indictments and telling Trump he should “raise this with Putin when you see him on Monday.” In a separate tweet a few hours later, Cicilline said Trump should cancel the meeting.

Congressman Jim Langevin said Trump should not only cancel the meeting, but also “work with Congress to punish Russia for its actions.”

“When a nation violates the norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, we must respond with all means of state power, economic, diplomatic and otherwise. It is simply unacceptable to use cyber means to steal and disseminate political documents with the goals of undermining faith in American democracy,” he said. “Sadly, the President continues to cast doubt on the facts first set forth by our intelligence community and reiterated in today’s indictment.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said “it has long been clear” that Russia hacked and leaked emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“The President’s willingness to ignore this — even the findings of his own intelligence community — raises red flags, and requires that law enforcement be allowed to continue its investigations unimpeded,” he said. “The phony claims that this investigation needs to be ‘wrapped up’ are highly suspect and utterly without merit.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also says Trump should cancel the meeting.

A White House spokeswoman says the indictments contain no allegations of knowing involvement by Trump campaign officials.

WPRI: Local leaders react to Kavanaugh nomination

WPRI: Local leaders react to Kavanaugh nomination

By: Caroline Goggin

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Standing next to his wife and daughters, conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump Monday night. This was the president’s second Supreme Court pick since taking office.

“My judicial philosophy is straightforward,” Kavanaugh said. “A judge must be independent, and must interpret law as written. A judge must interpret the constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”

Kavanaugh, 53, was born in Washington, D.C. and currently sits on the D.C. circuit. He is a graduate of Yale Law School, and later gained national attention from his time working for former independent counsel Ken Starr during the investigation of then-president Bill Clinton.

Roger Williams University law professor Peter Margulies described Kavanaugh as “exceptionally bright.”

“Great track record on the D.C. circuit, and great credentials,” Marguiles said. “So in that sense, President Trump couldn’t have picked a better person. But in terms of his general perspective, he is highly conservative. So, conservatives will be happy about that.”

Margulies said if Kavanaugh is confirmed, he believes that could eventually lead to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

“It certainly will be at risk,” he explained. “I think the court’s approach will be to first uphold state laws that in some ways limit access to abortion. But over time, I think there will be states that will be encouraged by the selection of Judge Kavanaugh, that will have laws in place that categorically and absolutely prohibit abortion.”

Kavanaugh will need 51 votes to be confirmed in the Senate, and Margulies said he does not believe attaining confirmation will be difficult.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse criticized Trump’s nomination.

“Special interests approved this nominee,” he said. “The confirmation process will be powered by massive, secretive spending by their phony front groups. That’s why Brett Kavanaugh must convince me he can actually be independent. I, along with the American people, will not tolerate a rigged system anymore.”

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed claimed Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would “pose a serious threat to Americans’ access to health care and their civil liberties.”

“I opposed Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lower court seat because of his overtly partisan background,” he said. “I did not believe he was a good fit to serve on the DC Circuit then, and I do not think he is a good fit for the Supreme Court now.”

“President Trump had an opportunity to put forth a mainstream nominee who could bring the country together,” Reed continued. “Instead, he once again chose partisanship and the powerful over the interests of hardworking Americans.”

Kavanaugh was tapped to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring. Congressman Jim Langevin expressed concern that his independent voice will be missed.

“Throughout his tenure, Justice Kennedy provided a pivotal vote on several important cases, and some of his most memorable decisions empowered the disadvantaged,” he stated. “From privacy rights to affirmative action to marriage equality, he believed in the rights of people to live and love unburdened by the weight of historical oppression. Although I did not agree with all of Justice Kennedy’s opinions, we must consider the significant role he played on the Court and his impact on women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.”

“While I do not have a role in the confirmation process,” Langevin added, “it is critical that my colleagues in the Senate subject Judge Kavanaugh to a careful vetting process and fully consider the impact of his future decisions on the lives of the American people.”

FCW: Waging cyber war without a rulebook

FCW: Waging cyber war without a rulebook

By Derek B. Johnson

For years, security experts have warned of an impending cyber Pearl Harbor: an attack so big and bold that it cripples U.S. infrastructure and demands a military response.

However, in interviews with former White House and executive branch officials as well as members of Congress and staffers involved in cyber policy, many expressed more concern about the potential for a Cyber Gulf of Tonkin: a misunderstanding or misattribution around an event that precipitates or is used as a justification for war.

“I think we should all be concerned about a [misunderstanding] or something that is made to look like someone else took action,” said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), a co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. “Attribution is very difficult, although we are getting much better at it. There’s no doubt there could always be a level of uncertainty.”

The U.S. government is currently engaged in disputes with at least four other countries — Iran, North Korea, Russia and China — over a series of recent hacks, intrusions and cyberattacks dating back five years. In cases like Iran and North Korea, some worry the situation is potentially one precipitating incident away from breaking out into military conflict.

Furthermore, members of Congress have increasingly agitatedfor a more forceful response against nation-state- led cyberattacks, while providing little in the way of statutory guidance around rules of engagement for offensive cyber operations, including which agencies should take the lead and how brightly the lines should be drawn between private sector, civilian government and military response.

Blurred lines

The federal government lacks a commonly understood framework for the type and scope of actions that would or would not qualify as an act of war in cyberspace.

“There isn’t [a document] — to my knowledge at least when I was in government — where it’s like ‘this is our list’ and if it’s one of these things then we’re going to declare war,” said Megan Stifel, a former director of international cyber policy on the National Security Council.  “It’s not very helpful and reassuring to many to say that we’ll know it when we see it, but that has been a bit of the philosophy because we haven’t seen it yet.”

Stifel pointed to many of the most high-profile attacks against United States assets – such as the 2016 election disinformation campaign, the 2017 WannaCry attacks, the 2014 Sony hack and the Office of Personnel Management hack — and questioned whether any of them could truly be interpreted as a genuine act of war by the nations who supposedly carried them out.

In its new command vision on information warfare, U.S. Cyber Command noted that nation-states have taken advantage of this ambiguous policy landscape to conduct aggressive cyber campaigns to harm or destabilize U.S. interests and infrastructure.

“Adversaries continuously operate against us below the threshold of armed conflict. In this ‘new normal,’ our adversaries are extending their influence without resorting to physical aggression,” the vision statement reads.

Some have argued that such direction would allow policymakers to clearly communicate which kind of attacks and targets are beyond the pale and require an in-kind cyber or even kinetic military response. Alternatively, the absence of such a framework carries the risk of fostering confusion and misunderstandings on the international stage that could precipitate a larger conflict.

“There are these questions of ‘what was the intent?’ and I think we need to be careful not to go [like the metaphorical hammer] looking for nails,” Stifel said. “Because of the way western democracies have the private sector own most of the communications and information technology infrastructure, the lines are very blurred.”

A shifting policy landscape

That ambiguity has left some perplexed as to how best to respond to a series of cyber-focused operations against the United States.

Langevin is one of 12 members of Congress to co-sponsor a bill introduced this year by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fl.) that would require the president to single out as a “critical cyber threat” any foreign persons or entities determined to be responsible for a cyberattack as well as any person or organization that “knowingly materially assisted or attempted such activities.” Those actors would then be subject to a range of potential economic and travel-related sanctions. Yoho’s bill recentlypassed the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has garnered support from a bipartisan group of cybersecurity-focused lawmakers in the House.

The legislation is meant to codify many of the strategies employed during the first 18 months of the Trump administration to respond to high-profile cyberattacks against the United States, pairing “name and shame” tactics with economic and political pressure in a way that results in meaningful consequences for those who step over the line.

The problem is many policymakers are unsure where those lines actually are, and some question whether it’s even a good idea to draw them in the first place.

Langevin believes that legislation like Yoho’s bill will help to better police “the grey zone” around nation-state cyberattacks, but said he worries that being too specific could feed the potential for a Gulf of Tonkin-like misunderstanding.

“It’s hard to draw red lines in cyberspace as the threats are rapidly evolving,” said Langevin. “We have to be careful about being too prescriptive.”

That view was echoed by many others. A majority staffer on one of the congressional homeland security committees speaking on background was reluctant to even offer a broad outline of a cyber warfare doctrine, arguing the landscape is so unsettled and the potential for new technologies like AI, quantum computing and augmented reality to disrupt the status mean that any rules the Trump administration or Congress lays out today could be obsolete five years down the road.

Even worse, the rules could box them into enforcing ultimatums that no longer makes sense in an evolving policy environment. The staffer compared the status quo to “Calvinball,” a game from the popular comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes” in which the only rule is that the rules must constantly change.

“We don’t have examples in history of that kind of asymmetry and how to handle it,” the staffer said. “Even if you looped in the smartest, most knowledgeable people with all of the letters after their name that you could possibly imagine, they couldn’t sit in a room and say 10 years from now, this framework will still hold true.”

Over the past year, policymakers have been working behind the scenes to carve out a larger role for U.S. Cyber Command. CyberScoop reported in April that CyberCom has been steadily winning a tug of war with intelligence agencies for supremacy over offensive cyber operations, including those taking place outside of traditional war zones. More recently, the organization has been wading into what is typically considered the Department of Homeland Security’s turf by establishing threat information sharing programs with the banking sector.

Curtis Dukes, who ran the National Security Agency’s Information Assurance unit, said unleashing a military organization like Cyber Command to engage in offensive operations outside of war zones without a shared doctrine for conducting information warfare is a recipe for unintended consequences.

“We don’t know with any level of precision what would actually constitute an act of war where we would respond either militarily or using our own cyber offensive capabilities,” Dukes said. “Frankly, that needs to occur if we’re going to use Cyber Command as a capability to protect the homeland.”

A former high-ranking congressional staffer who worked on military cyber policy speaking on background concurred with that sentiment, saying the U.S. lacks a solid interagency process for weighing risks and examining the trade-offs of such operations.

“I’m sure there are places where it would be appropriate for CyberCom to be more aggressive, but I can tell you having sat over at DOD, that CyberCom would bring out some really stupid proposals that would sometimes ignore risks to things like the integrity of the global financial system,” the source said.

Like many of those interviewed, the former staffer cited the recent elimination of the White House cyber coordinator position as a move that would only exacerbate these problems. Langevin as well as Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) have introducedlegislation to restore the position.

Pinning the blame

There are political and public relations factors to consider as well. When nations go to war, they often couch their decision as a defensive or retaliatory response to some malicious precipitating event.

Proving to allies and the international community that a cyberattack came at the behest of a particular nation-state is difficult. Most instances of cyber attribution — such as those done with WannaCry and NotPetya — can take months if not years before reaching a high confidence assessment.

Even then, policymakers may not want to risk exposing intelligence-related sources and methods. In December, the White House publicly blamed North Korea for the 2016 WannaCry malware.

Tom Bossert, who served as White House homeland security advisor at the time, told reporters that intelligence and technical forensics gave the government high confidence about the attribution, but he declined to specify what evidence the administration was relying on and indicated that a smoking gun definitively associating the attacks to Pyongyang was “difficult” to come by.

That sort of posture could make it trickier to convince allies that the evidence justifies a cyber or military response. A State Department document providing guidance to the president on international engagement around cyber matters released May 31 notes that “difficulty attributing the source of [cyber] attacks or sharing sensitive evidence to support attribution findings has made international or public-private cooperation to respond to specific threats more challenging.”

Such cooperation is critical to establishing international rules of engagement in most domains of war, according to John Dickson, a former Air Force officer who previously served in the Air Force Information Warfare Center. While other domains of war have had millennia to develop clear lines of engagement, there’s still significant uncertainty around how best to respond to incidents of information warfare. Because of that, Dickson argued it’s sometimes best to leave policymakers with maximum flexibility.

“We don’t have anywhere near the level of history, the level of conflict, the level of openness and visibility [with cyberwar] that you have in other wars,” Dickson said. “The biggest deal is that if you’re a talented attacker, certainly a nation-state attacker, you can prosecute and attack and still maintain some level of deniability.”

WPRI: RI receives additional $10M to combat opioid epidemic

WPRI: RI receives additional $10M to combat opioid epidemic

By: Sarah Doiron

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation have secured a major increase in federal funds to help battle the opioid epidemic.

The state is set to receive an additional $10 million to help battle opioid addiction and abuse.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Reps. David Cicilline and Jim Langevin joined health officials Tuesday to call for the funds to be quickly deployed to programs that can help save lives and aid in the recovery process.

“This is a disease, it should be viewed as you need help, you go and seek treatment,” Langevin said. “If you’re sick, you go to the doctor. If you break a leg, you go and get treated. The same if you have a mental health related issue. You have a substance abuse related issue, you should feel comfortable coming forward and seeking treatment.”

The Rhode Island Department of Health says 323 Rhode Islanders died of accidental drug overdoses last year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rhode Island had the ninth highest drug overdose death rate of any state in the nation in 2016.

“Tackling the opioid epidemic requires coordination and commitment at the federal, state, and local level,” Reed said. “I am working hard in the Senate to provide reinforcements in the battle against opioid addiction and we need to get these funds to the front lines where they can have the most impact and help save lives. We secured historic increases in funding, but it is still only a fraction of what is needed to confront the enormity of this challenge.”

WPRI: Langevin wants to crack down on ‘bad actor’ gun dealers

WPRI: Langevin wants to crack down on ‘bad actor’ gun dealers

By Sarah Doiron and Kim Kalunian

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Congressman Jim Langevin is calling on his colleagues in Congress to take action on a new bill he’s sponsored aimed at cracking down on a small fraction of gun dealers who are illegally selling firearms to criminals.

The bill, called “Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act,” would increase gun dealer audits and inspections by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and strengthen penalties for violators.

“Gun dealers have a responsibility to their communities to follow the law and when they don’t the consequences can be life or death,” Langevin said Monday.

The bill was introduced by Langevin and his co-sponsors on the second anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, when a gunman opened fire and killed 50 people on June 12, 2016 in Orlando.

According to a study by the anti-gun violence group the Brady Campaign, five percent of gun dealers provide the guns for 90 percent of crimes each year. Langevin and his colleagues are hoping this act will change that.

“Imagine if we could shut down by one-half, and perhaps by 100-percent, those five percent of dealers that are providing those weapons of 90 percent of shootings in this country,” Providence Public Commissioner Steven Pare said. “It would make it a different place here in America.”

“Many of the guns that are used in violent crimes in Rhode Island are illegally trafficked from other states bought legally by straw purchasers,” Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said. “We need strong federal legislation and enforcement to crack down on the few bad actors that continue to skirt the law in order to make a quick profit.”

Frank Saccocio of the Second Amendment Coalition said he hasn’t seen the legislation yet, but told Eyewitness News if it keeps firearms out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them, he doesn’t have a problem with it.

“If it keeps everybody honest, that’s fine by me,” Saccocio said.

But not everyone is on board with the legislation. Owner of Proline Firearms in Warwick, John Psilopoulos told Eyewitness News, “[This bill] to me is giving the [Attorney General]’s office the right to play judge, jury and executioner.”

Langevin said the vast majority of gun dealers are doing things the right way, but this act could help prevent future crimes.

“More inspections, more accountability for gun dealers who are not doing things the right way,” Langevin said. “Hopefully this will keep more guns out of the wrong hands.”

CyberScoop: Private sector isn’t sharing data with DHS’s threat portal

CyberScoop: Private sector isn’t sharing data with DHS’s threat portal

By Sean Lyngaas

For years, U.S. government officials have been trying to provide firms with actionable threat data in time for corporate officials to block hackers from compromising their networks.

The 2015 Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) gave firms legal cover to provide threat data to the government; the Department of Homeland Security rolled out an automated threat-sharing program in 2016; and Republican and Democratic administrations have preached the information-sharing gospel at conferences across the country.

But today, amid consistent nation-state cyberthreats to U.S. companies, there is a growing consensus in Congress and in the private sector that these federal efforts are falling way short of expectations and needs.

Two years after DHS established its Automated Indicator Sharing (AIS) program, just six non-federal organizations are using it to share threat indicators with the government, a DHS official told CyberScoop.

“That’s unacceptable and it surely doesn’t reach the threshold I hoped it was going to achieve,” Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., told CyberScoop.

In an interview, Langevin reflected on the shortcomings of AIS and the legislation that paved the way for it.

“Clearly, CISA has not yet reached the full potential that I and many others had hoped it would,” Langevin said.

“We had this grand vision that once we passed the bill that the legal obstacles and the perceptual obstacles would come down,” he said, “and that everyone would be enthusiastically accepting threat information from the government and be sharing threat information back with the government.”

That simply hasn’t happened yet.

Langevin said he was still hopeful that the information-sharing regime could be significantly improved. But given that it took years of horse-trading to get CISA passed, it is an open question whether the problem can be solved through more legislation.

A spokesperson for Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., anotherclose follower of AIS, said the congressman wants DHS to brief House appropriators on how the department will get more companies to share threat data through the program.

“[I]n order for AIS to be successful, it has to be mutually beneficial,” Jaime Lennon, Ruppersberger’s spokesperson, told CyberScoop. “We need the private sector to step up and contribute more, but we have to make it easier, quicker and more fulfilling for them, too.”

DHS officials have echoed that point.

“Our shared success and security is dependent on the continued voluntary participation of private sectors,” Jeanette Manfra, DHS’s top cybersecurity official, told CyberScoop recently.

Manfra has said the department plans to update AIS this year to include automated feedback from customers on what they are doing with the threat data.

Some good with the bad

AIS is not the only information-sharing game in town – it is simply DHS’s effort to do it at machine speed. The current struggles notwithstanding, Chris Cummiskey, a former DHS official and current cybersecurity consultant, said the department has come a long way in its threat-sharing efforts.

“Only in the last several years has the department been in the position to collect the kind of [threat] data that would be usable” by the private sector, he told CyberScoop. DHS’s ability to pass the data along is maturing, he added, through the growth of its 24/7 watch center known as the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center.

And while the amount of private-sector data going to the government through AIS is not flattering, much more information appears to be flowing in the other direction. More than 260 federal and non-federal entities, and 11 international computer emergency response teams are connected to AIS, according to DHS.

There are also increasingly robust information-sharing efforts outside of government.  The nonprofit Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA) for example, disseminates threat information to its corporate members, which include Cisco and Symantec.

Ahead of the announcement last month that alleged Russian hackers had assembled a massive botnet targeting 500,000 routers, Cisco was able to share malware samples so that CTA members could respond to the threat, according to Neil Jenkins, CTA’s chief analytic officer.

By the time Cisco’s threat intelligence unit published a blog on the botnet, many CTA members had already applied protections against the threat, Jenkins told CyberScoop.

Puzzles unsolved

Such private initiatives are encouraging, observers say, but the one thing they can’t generate is classified threat intelligence. Industry executives want the government to get that classified data into the hands of more corporate officials — and to declassify it more quickly to reach a wider private-sector audience.

Some executives are mystified as to why the U.S. government — the gatekeeper of untold volumes of digital footprints — apparently still struggles to provide timely information that companies can’t get from a private cybersecurity service.

“I don’t have an answer as to why it’s so difficult to get context sometimes” with government-provided threat data, Sarah Urbanowicz, chief information security officer for engineering firm AECOM, told CyberScoop.

The “context” that Urbanowicz and many other executives seek might include qualitative analysis to complement the technical details provided on hackers. But that context is often at odds with demands for getting information a machine speed.

Scott Goodhart, chief information security officer of power firm AES Corp., called for a frank discussion with the government on the challenges it faces in pushing threat information out.

“If you know there’s a Chinese threat coming in or something, I don’t care what technique or method they use necessarily to get in, tell me the information so I can feed my systems and block it,” Goodhart told CyberScoop.

Providence Journal: Unions, R.I. officials condemn U.S. Supreme Court ruling on union dues

Providence Journal: Unions, R.I. officials condemn U.S. Supreme Court ruling on union dues

By Linda Borg

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The threatening clouds outside mirrored the tense and determined atmosphere at AFL-CIO headquarters Wednesday afternoon, as about a dozen labor unions turned out in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that government workers can’t be forced to pay union fees.

“We have received very quickly, very strong support from our congressional delegation and Governor Raimondo,” George Nee, president of the Rhode Island chapter of the AFL-CIO, said at the news conference. “When you’re in a fight, it’s good to know you have friends.

“We’re going to be fine,” he added. “We will continue to organize, and we have been organizing.”

Reaction to Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision split along ideological lines in Rhode Island, with liberals calling it an attack on organized labor and conservatives hailing it as a victory for free speech.

The court, in a 5-4 vote, ruled that non-union public-sector employees are not required to pay certain union fees, even though they benefit from collective bargaining. The case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, found that requiring non-union workers to pay fees violates their freedom of speech.

Gov. Gina Raimondo wrote that “the labor movement built Rhode Island’s middle class. This decision is part of a larger effort to weaken labor and diminish the middle class. … As long as I am governor, Rhode Island will continue to stand up for the middle class.”

She said her team will review this ruling and, if any changes are required, her administration will make them at the bargaining table.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse called the partisan nature of these decisions “a cancer on the credibility of the court. Celebratory tweets by Republican political leaders embracing members of the court provide a telling symbol of this breakdown.”

R.I. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who in January filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a Seventh Circuit decision protecting “fair share” provisions in public-sector collective bargaining agreements, likewise expressed his disappointment in Wednesday’s ruling.

“It will curtail the ability for public employees to obtain fair wages and benefits. These workers are our neighbors, our teachers, police officers and firefighters, all of whom work hard each day serving our communities and contributing to our quality of life,” Kilmartin said in a news release.

“They have already had to endure severe cutbacks to pension plans, health coverage and other benefits, while paying more, and today’s decision will further erode their ability to collectively fight for livable wages, retirement security and other important protections.”

No one knows what the impact on unions will be or how fast the effects will be felt. But such a ruling could have a crippling effect on union revenues, according to the Education Writers Association. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, could face a potential loss of 307,000 members over two years, according to analyst Mike Antonucci, a frequent union critic, cited in the EWA article.

“The Janus case is the most recent corporate-funded attack on public employees that seeks to silence the voice of workers,” said Jay Walsh, executive director of the University of Rhode Island Chapter of the American Association of University Professors. “Full-time faculty at URI don’t just bargain about wages and benefits. We also bargain about conditions that improve student experiences like smaller course sizes, school safety, and freedom of inquiry and expression.”

U.S. Rep. James Langevin called the ruling “a blow to working families and to the members of organized labor who are fighting for their right to earn a decent living.”

“I am appalled that the Gorsuch Court is now going after civil servants by overturning four decades of precedent and undermining their rights as employees,” he said. “Governments are not infringing on free speech by allowing workers to demand better wages.”

But the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a conservative research and advocacy group, said the ruling grants workplace freedom to public employees.

“The greatest benefit will be an improvement in public education,” said Mike Stenhouse, the center’s CEO. “Many education reforms that would improve schools in disadvantaged communities are prevented by union collective bargaining agreements. If unions are no longer able to force teachers who disagree with them to fund their bargaining positions, unions will have less power to impose ineffective policies into contracts.”

“We expected this,” said Nee. “I don’t see this as a weakening at all.

“We’ve been growing and in this state we’ve been strong,” he added. “We never made progress by sitting still and accepting the status quo.”

Providence Journal: R.I.’s leaders react to court travel ban decision

Providence Journal: R.I.’s leaders react to court travel ban decision

By The Providence Journal

Rhode Island responses to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling to uphold the Trump administration ban on travel from several mostly Muslim countries:

Gov. Gina Raimondo:

“Rhode Island was founded on the idea that freedom of worship is an inherent human right. I’m disappointed that the Supreme Court sided in favor of President Trump’s immoral and unnecessary Muslim ban. Our state has always been strengthened by the contribution of immigrants. It’s now more important than ever that we show the world that there’s a place for everyone in Rhode Island. No matter your race, where you’re from, your immigration status or who you love — you are welcome here.”

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.:

“This ruling is a serious blow to religious freedom. The Trump Administration wants to use national security as a shield for bigotry. But the Muslim ban was never about national security, and to pretend otherwise is a disservice to our brave, principled military, intelligence, and national security professionals who work hard every day to keep our nation safe. Systematically discriminating against Muslims doesn’t make America safer. Period. The Trump Administration should focus on security measures that actually help protect our nation, rather than those that simply pander to his political base.

“Today, the Trump Administration is targeting Muslims, tomorrow it could be another President targeting another religion. It is up to all of us to stand up against religious discrimination, or we all risk forfeiting our own religious liberty and the rights of future generations. And it’s incumbent upon Congress to serve as a check on the Executive Branch when it tries to discriminate against people based on their religion.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.:

“I am sorry to see yet another 5-4 partisan decision by the Republican appointees on the Court, this time accepting President Trump’s political narrative about a travel ban designed to be a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’ This breaks with the factual findings of multiple decisions by multiple courts, and reflects poorly on the Supreme Court as an institution.”

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.:

“This is a bad decision that undermines our security and our values. The President made clear throughout the campaign that he wanted to limit the number of Muslims allowed to enter the United States. He put that rhetoric into action a few days into his presidency. It’s sad that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court ignored these basic facts in their decision.”

“President Trump’s racist, indefensible policies are making America less safe at home and less respected around the world. We are better than this. One day, we’ll look back on this ruling and wonder how we lost our way. Until then, I’ll continue fighting to stop the damage that President Trump’s policies are inflicting on the United States.”

U.S. Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I.:

“I am deeply disappointed in today’s Supreme Court ruling to keep President Trump’s travel ban in place. As I made clear during questioning of then DHS Secretary Kelly, there is no specific intelligence backing this ban, and it can only be viewed as an expression of the President’s ill will toward Muslims. Discrimination of this sort is unjustifiable and directly contradicts the American ideals of freedom and opportunity. I trust that the lower courts will, upon further review, continue to brand this xenophobic policy as immoral and unlawful.”

Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of R.I.:

“Today is a shameful day in our history, but justice will ultimately prevail. In the meantime, the ACLU of RI will continue to fight for the rights of all in the face of the Trump Administration’s discriminatory and xenophobic actions. As the ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of RI resident Lilian Calderon demonstrates, these actions affect real people in very concrete and devastating ways. We encourage all Rhode Islanders to speak out and join with us in continuing to fight these attacks on our basic rights and freedoms.

Warwick Post: Langevin Introduces Bill Improving Emergency Preparedness for People With Disabilities

Warwick Post: Langevin Introduces Bill Improving Emergency Preparedness for People With Disabilities

By Rob Borkowski

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), and Peter King (R-NY) have introduced legislation that would create an advisory committee to improve U.S. emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.

“I understand the extra fear and uncertainty that individuals with disabilities often associate with emergencies – I’ve felt it myself,” said Langevin, co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus. “During disasters, it is critical that we have appropriate equipment, treatments and personnel that reflect the needs of our most vulnerable populations. This legislation will ensure that people with disabilities have a seat at the table during disaster preparedness policy making. After all, people will disabilities need to be included in disaster planning from the outset, not as an afterthought.”

“Disasters affect all populations differently. From Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Maria last year, it is clear we are not doing enough to protect vulnerable populations, including Americans with disabilities,” said Thompson, Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security. “Having HHS revisit its preparedness planning to include the needs of those with disabilities ensures no one will get left behind. I thank my colleague, Mr. Langevin, for seeing the need for this legislation and for introducing it today.”

“When a disaster strikes, it is imperative that our Federal, State and local officials have the knowledge and a clear plan to ensure the safety of individuals with disabilities,” said King. “I want to commend my good friend Rep. Langevin on this legislation. It is critical.”

This bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a 25-member National Advisory Committee on Individuals with Disabilities in All-Hazards Emergencies comprised of federal and local officials with expertise in disability-related policy and at least four individuals with disabilities that have substantial experience in disability inclusive emergency management.

The advisory committee would be charged with evaluating existing policy and providing recommendations to ensure the coordination of care for those with disabilities during disasters.