Heard on the Hill

OMG: Mikulski Responds to Tweets at Cybersecurity Hearing

In the Twitter age, apparently lawmakers don’t even need to wrap up their hearings before responding to news reports they don’t like, as BuzzFeed reporter Rosie Gray discovered Wednesday. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., spent much of a hearing Wednesday trying to steer the proceeding back to its original intended purpose — evaluating the U.S. cybersecurity budget — rather than what it was turning into, a grilling of Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the National Security Agency director and head of U.S. Cyber Command, about  government surveillance programs. Several times, she reminded panelists that the Intelligence Committee has a Thursday briefing planned to discuss surveillance. More than an hour and a half into the hearing, though, Mikulski interrupted the proceeding for a different purpose: answering a tweet from Gray saying she was “interfering” with an interesting line of questioning. “There is no attempt here to muzzle, stifle any senator from asking any question,” Mikulski said, addressing the C-SPAN cameras. She concluded by saying, “Rosie, it’s an open hearing. I look forward to keeping in touch.” Indiana Republican Dan Coats then came to the chairwoman’s defense, saying she was “extremely tolerant” of the questions being asked. Gray’s Twitter account showed that the real-time conversation was working both ways. “OMG,” she tweeted as Mikulski was speaking.