Senator Harris Outlines Russian Threat at Intelligence Committee Hearing
Washington, D.C.-U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today outlined the attack Russia waged on American democracy with their interference in the 2016 presidential election and questioned experts on Russia's cyber capabilities compared to traditional weapons.
"Let's all be clear about what happened, “Harris said. “We know - as has already been determined by the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA - a foreign country, Russia, attacked the heart of our democracy - an American election for the President of the United States. And they can and will do so again if we do not act urgently."
Harris also expressed the need for a transparent, thorough and non-partisan investigation.
"We must get to the bottom of this, “Harris continued. “We must be thorough. We must proceed with urgency. And we must be transparent. That is vital to protect the public's trust in us - and it's what the American people deserve."
Harris has previously called for the Department of Justice to appoint an independent Special Counsel to oversee the Federal Bureau of Investigation's inquiry into these attacks.
A full transcripts below:
Thank you, and I want to thank the Chairman and Vice Chairman for this open hearing.
As this Committee conducts its investigation into Russia's interference with our 2016 United States election, the American people need to fully understand the threat that we face, and what we must do to protect ourselves in the future.
And let's all be clear about what happened. We know - as has already been determined by the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA - a foreign country, Russia, attacked the heart of our democracy - an American election for the President of the United States. And they can and will do so again if we do not act urgently.
We must get to the bottom of this. We must be thorough. We must proceed with urgency. And we must be transparent. That is vital to protect the public's trust in us - and it's what the American people deserve.
And I know we can do so while protecting classified sources and material - items that must remain classified in order to protect our national security, the sources of our intelligence, and the sensitive methods by which we collect it.
This hearing is a first step to understand Russia's interference but it cannot end here. We must build on today's hearing with future open hearings as much as possible. And I strongly believe an informed public is one of our best weapons against future attacks.
Senator Harris questioning:
Harris: I have a question for all of you and I'll start with Mr. Watts. Earlier this week, former Vice President Cheney said Russia's interference in our election should be considered an act of war. Assuming this was an act of war, Russia is investing in cyber weapons and cyber soldiers, which we call trolls, while we continue to invest in the traditional weapons. As we invest in fighter jets and aircraft carriers, Russia is investing in state run media from which it can push out fake news. As we consider investing more than $600 billion in our defense budget, Russia has approximately one tenth of that amount in their budget and is developing its cyber warfare capabilities. I strongly believe cyber may be the new frontier of war and so my question for you is, was this is an act of war? And are we prepared for this new form of warfare? And equally important, given the everyday challenges of Americans and their everyday lives, why should they be concerned about this?
Clint Watts: On the first part an act of war, on scale of warfare, it's not kinetic but it's definitely part of the cold war system that we knew 20, 30 years ago. Americans should be concerned because right now, a foreign country whether they realize it or not, is pitting them against their neighbor, other political parties, ramping up divisions based on things that aren't true. They're trying to break down the trust they have in you as a Senator, the Congress, the Legislature, the court system. They're trying to break down all faith in those institutions. And if they can do that, if Americans don't believe that their vote counts, they're not going to show up to participate in democracy. If they don't believe what they're doing is part of a government system that actually represents them, they're not going to go to jury duty. If they don't believe in those institutions, everything breaks down. When that breakdown occurs, we are focused internally and Russia is focused externally achieving their goals. In terms of investments, part of the reason we don't invest well in cyber and we don't invest in information is because we're not buying big pieces of equipment. If you can't buy a big piece of equipment, then it's really hard to invest your dollars. We need to invest in people. The reason Russians win in cyber and information space is they have great propagandists and they have the best hackers out there that they can either enlist because they're criminals and sort of bring them under the umbrella or train themselves. We, on the other hand, worry a lot about who we're going to bring into the cyber field because they might have smoked weed one day or they can't pass a security clearance or you know, they didn't get a score on their ASVAB but there's millions - I mean millions - of talented Americans out there that can support these roles inside our government. We need to invest in humans moving forward in this space. It's hard to get Americans to understand that or even the Department of Defense because you're talking about cyber and computers. So you think of tech but the truth is, that tech only works if you've got the smartest brains behind it. We do but don't put them against our fight.
Harris: Thank you. Dr. Rumer.
Dr. Eugene Rumer: I think we should be careful using terms such as an "act of war". It's definitely a continuation of warfare by other means, but you know, when you declare something to be an act of war, it calls for certain responses we may not be ready to take on. I do agree with Mr. Watts on the need to be much more creative and much more resourceful in the way we approach the question of, call it, "cyber warfare". I again, would caution that you know, Russians have a very different standard here in using their offensive tools than we use in using our cyber tools with a great deal of responsibility. And I think we should be very careful not to cross certain lines. We should, however, be using tools that are available to us in platforms that are available to us just from a different domain. I think that our own spokesman, our own information projected delivered from our platforms should be the gold standard of accuracy and objectivity. From that standpoint, let me just say that you know, we're not using, for example, the platform of the State Department effectively, the practice of not sustaining our regular briefings for the media for the world is something that only hurts our interests.
Harris: Thank you
Dr. Roy Godson: I agree with my colleagues. So, I won't repeat the same conclusions they reached. I would though like to introduce the idea though that cyber is now important. Cyber wasn't considered so important 20 years ago. Now considered important. But there are other technologies coming on board now, some are visible to us. Some they're not very salient. They haven't risen above the horizon. There are a whole number of technologies that are not internet dependent and as we look at active measures now and into the future, I would think that would be on the agenda. I'll give just one example. Virtual reality. Anybody who can set up the reality is going to have a very decided advantage in politics and other areas. And so, as we're looking at cyber and you are going to have a hearing and other studies of this, I would say just that we should broaden the concept of technologies that are going to be available coming online and it would be extremely unlikely that the Russians would ignore those technologies and so maybe that would be something to add to the already busy agenda that you have. Thank you.
Harris: Thank you.
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