Full Video of Russia Forum

In Stories by Alex Harris

Video by Joe Dowdell.

A capacity crowd attended an informative public forum sponsored by the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee (“DTC”), Saturday afternoon, June 10, at Ridgefield Library. The forum focused on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US election. Susan Cocco, former DTC chair, moderated the discussion, with  Congressman Jim Himes who represents Connecticut’s 4th congressional district (which includes Ridgefield), and Scott Bates, Connecticut’s Deputy Secretary of the State, serving as panelists. Some highlights:

  • The forum focused on Russian cyber attacks around the world, methods, capabilities, and motivations.
  • Mr. Bates provided an overview of Russian history and the ways in which that unique history informs current Russian motivations. Both panelists advocated international diplomatic, economic, and counter-cyber efforts to peacefully deter Russian hacking.
  • Speakers spoke at length pointing out that Russian hacks in Europe and the US have been primarily aimed at political parties and campaigns, and reassuring listeners that there is high confidence that NO voting systems were compromised anywhere in the US.
  • Speakers highlighted potential vulnerabilities to be addressed, but also the much more extensive strengths of our decentralized US elections infrastructure.
  • The speakers assured listeners that America has the capabilities to remain continuously ahead of hackers to ensure the integrity of our voting systems.
  • The speakers took great care to warn against and distinguish wild public speculations from valid, evidence-based conclusions.
  • In response to questions about “controlling fake news”, the speakers invoked Jefferson’s admonition that democracy requires an engaged, educated and informed citizenry, argued that critical thinking by individuals in the marketplace of ideas is the best means of combatting propaganda from all sources, and strongly cautioned against any infringements of 1st Amendment rights.

Congressman Himes serves as ranking member of the NSA and Cyber Security Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  He is a first hand participant in the House hearings on subjects related to questions currently dominating daily news.  Jim is currently serving his 5th term in Congress.

Deputy Secretary Bates has been on the ground in every war zone where American troops have fought in this generation. He has worked with elected leaders and activists alike to build democratic institutions and governance structures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti and the Persian Gulf.  After September 11th, Scott became the first Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee and was the principal author of “Winning the War on Terror” which helped inform the 911 Commission hearings. In his current role, Scott is engaged in efforts to ensure election and voting integrity.

This forum was part of an occasional series sponsored by the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee (“DTC”). The DTC conducts these fora on topics of public interest, subject to availability of relevant speakers. We offer the fora at no charge for admission, as a public service to broaden public discourse and understanding.

Congressman Jim Himes, Susan Cocco, and Connecticut Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates. Photos by Geoff Bartlett.