Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Jan. 5 told Congress there’s no question Russia tried to influence the 2016 U.S. election and every American should take notice.
“This was a multi-faceted campaign, so the hacking was only one part of it,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “When you look at the Russians, they do pose an existential threat to the United States.”
As reports of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election began spilling out last month, President Barack Obama ordered the intelligence community to conduct a full review. Next week, Clapper will brief Congress on his findings and provide the public with an unclassified version. Clapper said Russia did not alter vote tallies or stuff ballot boxes but its coordinated propaganda and dissemination of misleading or fraudulent information had an incalculable effect on voters’ attitudes.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., committee chairman, grew frustrated while listening to Clapper and other top intelligence officials explain how the United States responds to cyberattacks.
“It seems that every attack is handled on a case-by-case basis—that’s not a strategy,” McCain interrupted.
Before Congress adjourned for the holiday break, McCain and Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., advocated forming a select committee on cybersecurity to probe the Russian hacks. McCain has since backed off the idea after failing to gain his colleagues’ support.
Last week, Obama reprimanded Russia for its Election Day interference. He adopted sanctions on multiple Russian entities, ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country, and closed two Russian government-owned compounds.
Today, several lawmakers asked why Russia’s actions aren’t being treated as an act of war, if the intelligence community is certain Moscow ordered the hacks.
“As I say, people in glass houses need to think about throwing rocks,” Clapper said. “This was an act of espionage. And we and other nations conduct similar acts of espionage.”
Russian hacks of Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers, the spread of fake news stories, and the selective release of sensitive information certainly had an impact, but the intelligence community should not have to determine whether that’s an act of war, Clapper said.
Graham agreed espionage is a gray area but said Russia clearly did more than spy on U.S. entities.
“When it comes to interfering in our election, we better be ready to throw rocks,” Graham said. “I think what Obama did was throw a pebble. I’m ready to throw a rock.”
Democrats agreed with McCain that the United States lacks a comprehensive strategy on retaliation for cyberattacks. But most wanted to focus on President-elect Donald Trump’s disregard for the information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Yesterday, Trump backed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s claim on Fox News that Russia did not provide the stolen documents from the DNC distributed by his website. Since winning the election, Trump has repeatedly disputed the intelligence community’s claims of Russian involvement in the election process.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called Trump’s disparagement of U.S. agencies unacceptable. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said everyone should worry that Trump places Assange on a pedestal above U.S. intelligence officers.
Clapper said there’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement but conceded he has heard concern from many foreign counterparts about the derisive attitude toward intelligence-gathering.
McCain asked Clapper if Assange should have any credibility.
“No, he should not,” Clapper said.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Publication date: January 6, 2017