The Intercept writes about the congressional capacity to investigate Russia's involvement in the 2016 election.
CONGRESSIONAL INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE leaders have pledged to examine Russia’s involvement in hacks against Democrats during the 2016 presidential election. As the ranking member of the Senate’s intelligence panel Rep. Adam Schiff put it, “we want to make sure that the intelligence community got it right. … We want to look at the raw intelligence, and make sure their conclusions were substantiated.”
But a detailed investigation into hacking demands technical skills that staff for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees appear to be lacking.
Research into public committee staff lists, LinkedIn, and conversations with several sources who have interacted with the committees shows a serious dearth of technical expertise among the staffers cleared to access classified materials that would be involved in the investigation. Essentially, committee staff are underwater when it comes to poking into the nitty gritty of cyber warfare — a longstanding problem made more relevant as attacks on U.S. government and politicians escalate.
Committees and their members customarily rely on staff to do the heavy lifting to prepare background research, evaluate evidence and information, and advise on policy and legal issues. Depending on the committee, staffers are typically well-versed in the law, international affairs, Washington policy debates, and more. But a technical matter like the election hacks benefits from knowledge of coding, information security, and attribution.
The bulk of staff on the intelligence committees — more than two dozen on each — are lawyers, policy wonks, and budget experts. Many staffers worked in the legislative affairs offices of other senators and members of Congress, government budget offices, the Department of Justice, the military, private law firms, defense contractors, or Washington think tanks. While they’ve served for many years in their respective areas, those areas are rarely technical.