Rep Michael McCaul (R-TX 10th District), Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, leads a hearing at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum on Sept. 8, 2015 in New York City.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty

When in doubt, blame China?

There was quite a bit of drama in the intelligence community yesterday, when materials from CIA Director John Brennan’s personal email account were published online by WikiLeaks. This first phase of the release apparently does not include “revelations about U.S. intelligence or any classified material,” though additional leaks are expected to follow.
Of course, the story itself raises the question of how the director of the CIA’s personal email account was accessed in the first place. According to the Associated Press’ account, the materials were accessed “by a hacker who told The New York Post he is a high school student protesting American foreign policy. The hacker claimed he posed as a Verizon employee and tricked another employee into revealing Brennan’s personal information.”
And while this raises some important questions about privacy security, Kevin Drum flagged an amazing exchange from yesterday afternoon between Wolf Blitzer and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the Homeland Security committee.
McCaul: I wouldn’t be surprised if China was behind this one.
Blitzer: Behind this one? Because it seems like this hacker claims to be under 22 [McCaul starts to appear a bit puzzled and deep in thought] a young kid who’s stoned all the time. You think that–
McCaul: Oh yeah yeah yeah, I apologize, you’re correct about that. This was a young, sort of anonymous type figure, that did claim to be stoned at the time he did that, which is remarkable given what he accomplished.
And soon after, the interview moved on to other topics.
But let’s not brush past this too quickly. Why did the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee go on national television, accuse China of hacking the CIA director’s email account, and then quickly change his mind?
McCaul, who maintains a very high media profile, no doubt receives classified briefings quite regularly, and he’s probably had time to see the media accounts of the Brennan hack. Indeed, the suspected hacker who accessed Brennan’s AOL account – yes, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency still has an AOL account – has explained in some detail how he pulled this off.
Did the Texas congressman just blurt out “China” as some kind of instinctual response?