Advocacy

13th JBANC Baltic Conference – Opportunity to Meet with Your Congressional Offices

EANC calls on Estonian Americans to join us on November 8th and 9th for the Joint Baltic American National Committee’s 13th conference in Washington, DC.  The all-day conference on Saturday will feature many high-level experts, including Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, Windows on Eurasia author and long-time supporter of the Baltic nations Paul Goble, WTOP national security correspondent JJ Green, and University of Toronto professor Andres Kasekamp.  The full agenda is available at www.jbanc.org.JBANC conf photo

On Friday, November 8th, JBANC is organizing an advocacy day for conference participants who can arrive a day early.  JBANC will schedule meetings for constituents with their Senators and Representatives, or staff members from these offices.  This means each participant has the opportunity to meet with both Senators from their state and the Representative from their congressional district (or their staff), all in one day.  Please visit www.baltivist.com/BalticAdvocacyDay2019 for more information and to sign up.

The day will start with a morning orientation briefing on what to expect and topics to bring up during the meetings.  The office meetings will be scheduled for the remainder of the workday.  Participants will be grouped by state or region and make the office visits for their states and districts together with a local Baltic advocate who has experience with these meetings to help lead the discussions.   An evening reception at the Capitol Hill Club with members and staff from the House Baltic Caucus and Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus, and other supporters of the region, will wrap up the day’s events.

After the conference on Saturday, we invite you to sign up and join us for the evening to enjoy the 2019 EANC-JBANC Awards Gala – a fabulous evening celebrating noteworthy Estonian Americans and friends, and featuring Broadway-bound entertainment.  EANC will present awards to Bishop electus Toomas Vaga, Ms. Anu Oinas and the folkdance group Pillerkaar, the Baltimore Estonian Society, and  the Estonian Relief Committee.  Entertainment will include a sneak peek of acclaimed Broadway producer Tony Spinosa’s upcoming musical production of The Singing Revolution, featuring dancing and choreography by Märt Agu and his professional dance company.  The deadline to register for the conference and the gala is November 4th.

Please see www.estosite.org and www.jbanc.org for details and registration.  We look forward to seeing you in Washington on November 8th and 9th!

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Advocacy

Estonians in the Election Security Spotlight

The Estonian Embassy co-sponsored an event on September 26th in conjunction with Auburn University and the Center for Internet Security to “address risks, vulnerabilities, best practices and what needs to be done to secure elections worldwide” according to Auburn University’s announcement of the event.  Featured speakers included former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Ambassador of Estonia to the U.S. Jonatan Vseviov.  Liisa Past, Chief National Cyber Risk Officer of the Government of Estonia; and Estonian American Frank Cilluffo, Director of Auburn University’s McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security, and the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, were also among the experts contributing to the event.  The full video is available at cchs.auburn.edu/events/securing-elections-global-lessons-learned.

Ambassador Vseviov opened the discussion by reminding us that western democracy is

Auburn Vseviov cropped

Ambassador Vseviov giving opening remarks.

an experiment and that other fundamentally different experiments are going on around the world at the same time.  The challenges we face threaten the very essence of democracy as other experiments “are actively attacking the credibility of what makes our experiment special.”  He stated that while there is an ongoing worthy debate on whether the use of technology makes us more or less vulnerable, “we in Estonia are absolutely certain that … utilizing technology in a smart way, we can not only make life easier for people… but at the same time we can increase the security of not only our elections, but our information society, our societal cohesion, and those pillars that make our democracy work.”

President Ilves identified one major weakness in the West as our tendency to manage information in silos based on what discipline it falls into while our adversaries integrate their strategies on a continuum to manipulate and undermine liberal democracies from many angles.  Another disadvantage is the lack of information sharing among nations and agencies.  Both practices prevent governments from seeing the bigger picture and putting together individual incidents to recognize broader threat patterns.  As a result, NATO and its partners aren’t able to fully understand related attacks and coordinate effective responses.

Auburn Ilves

President Ilves (center) with former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff (left) and discussion moderator Frank Cilluffo.

Ms. Past stressed the importance of risk management and agility in reaction to cyber threats.  This requires that a nation knows its assets and what an adversary is most likely to attack.  In elections, many factors leading up to actual election day are part of the chain of vulnerability.  The U.S. election structure is very decentralized with different systems employed at the state and local district levels.  Considerations include candidate registration, voter registration, how voter roles are managed, vendors of voting equipment, election facilitators, how votes are actually cast, and how results are published.  Each level carries a level of risk.

Auburn Liisa

Chief National Cyber Risk Officer, Government of Estonia Liisa Past (third from left) with fellow election security experts.

She noted that no way of voting is 100% secure.  “Election fraud and vote manipulation didn’t start with the use of technology in elections.  It started with free, fair and open elections being invented as a concept.  So what we’re dealing with in election meddling is fundamentally a political issue … playing out in a new technical sphere.”

The event ended with the acknowledgement that progress in the field is ongoing.  The event showed that Estonian expertise is recognized and valued here in the U.S.  EANC will continue to cover events where Estonians are invited to share their knowledge and contribute to security here in U.S.

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