No sooner had Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian military intelligence officers involved in the hacking of our 2016 presidential election, then Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats cautioned Senators on Friday that “the warning lights are blinking red again,” meaning that we are facing another potential 9/11-size cyber-war with our adversaries, most notably, Russia.
“Russia, China, Iran and North Korea,” Reuters reports (July 13), “are launching daily cyber strikes on the computer networks of federal, state and local government agencies, U.S. corporations, and academic institutions…”
“Of the four, ‘Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor, no question,’ Coats said. …
“Coats warned that the possibility of a ‘crippling cyber-attack on our critical infrastructure’ by a foreign actor is growing.
“He likened daily cyber-attacks to the ‘alarming activities’ that U.S. intelligence agencies detected before al Qaeda staged the most devastating extremist attack on the U.S. homeland on Sept. 11, 2001.
“ ‘The system was blinking red. Here we are nearly two decades later and I’m here to say the warning lights are blinking red again,’ he said.”
Just because it lacks the visuals of physical combat does not change the fact that foreign adversaries are attacking us.
The New York Times (July 13) reported that Coats said, “ ‘Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.’ …
“Mr. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, has helped position the intelligence agencies in the more hard-line camp, pushing for more aggressive actions to halt cyberattacks by Russia and other nations. In a speech last month in France, he outlined the recent history of Russian cyberattacks on elections and on candidates critical of Moscow. …
“Mr. Coats also expressed frustration with cyberspace strategies that emphasize only defense, and not offense as well. Evoking President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War approach to the Soviet Union, Mr. Coats suggested that if Russia continued to try to take on the United States in the cyber arena, then the administration should ‘throw everything we have got into it.’ …
“At a Senate hearing this year, Mr. Coats said that Russia viewed the midterm elections as a potential target, and he said Moscow’s activities were designed ‘to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.’ ”
In a statement, Sen. John McCain – one of only a few Republicans willing to speak forcefully on behalf of the security of the country – said, in part, “Today’s indictment is a result of the hard work of America’s law enforcement and intelligence officials who dedicate their lives to bringing to justice those who wish to do us harm. These revelations add to a body of evidence confirming an extensive plot by Vladimir Putin’s government to attack the 2016 election, sow chaos and dissension among the American electorate, and undermine faith in our democracy. And despite repeated warnings from our nation’s top intelligence and military leaders, the Kremlin’s efforts to weaken our institutions have continued unabated with insufficient action taken by the administration or Congress to strengthen our cyber defenses, safeguard our election systems, and deter further destabilizing activities.
“If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable,” McCain said, “the summit in Helsinki should not move forward.”
“Mr. Coats said Russian and other actors were exploring vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure and trying to infiltrate energy, water, nuclear and manufacturing sectors. …
“He did not outline any details of what exactly the United States or its intelligence agencies will do to curtail the intrusions. But he did say intelligence and other government agencies will speak more publicly about the threat of cyberattacks and cyberinterference to increase public knowledge.”
What should Congress do?
They should stop attacking the deputy attorney general, Department of Justice, the FBI and its director. They should stop wasting time in hearings defending Trump and start defending the country from a cyber-war that “is literally” here!
They need to work-around Trump, write and pass legislation that would allow them to directly instruct the intelligence community to develop an offensive plan to “throw everything we have got,” as Coats says, at Russia, China and North Korea.
Congressional Republicans need to stop attacking their own administration, work with Democrats, act responsibly and do their jobs!