A bill introduced by congressional Democrats would create a “National Russian Threat Response Center” following new allegations concerning Moscow’s role in last year’s U.S. presidential election.
“Russia’s attack on our election was not guided by party affiliation but instead by a deep desire to weaken trust in our institutions and shake the very foundation of our democracy,” Rep. Joseph Kennedy of Massachusetts, the bill’s author, said Thursday. “Without a strong, coordinated response from our government, adversarial assaults on our electoral system, economy and national security will only become more sophisticated and sustained in the coming years.”
The bill, H.R.2924, would amend the National Security Act of 1947 in order to establish a specialized center tasked solely with dealing with Russian meddling, according to its author. It would be housed under the Officer of the Director of National Intelligence and include representatives from the departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury, in addition to the CIA and Pentagon.
“The Center will be responsible for synchronizing and analyzing information pertaining to Russia from across the intelligence community, diplomatic channels and law enforcement agencies,” Mr. Kennedy’s office said. “Using its broad view across the U.S. Government, the Center will develop policy recommendations and identify gaps in the current collection and collation of intelligence pertaining to Russia.”
While allegations have persisted for months regarding Russia’s involvement in last year’s election, Mr. Kennedy specifically cited a recent Bloomberg report as the impetus for introducing his bill this week.
Separate from previously reported hacking campaigns waged against former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her White House campaign, the report said that Russian hackers targeted election systems in no fewer than 39 states during last year’s race, successfully gaining access to voter data and other records including the names and partial Social Security numbers of millions of registered voters.
“They do not target Democrats per se, they do not target Republicans per se — they target who they believe will stand up for American interests at the expense of Russian interests,” Mr. Kennedy told the Boston Herald. “We need to make sure that systems are put in place to safeguard our voting systems and our electoral process.
“By uniting our agencies and our allies against this common threat, our Response Center will ensure our government is ready and willing to respond to any future meddling before it takes root,” he said.
The bill has already attracted seven co-sponsors, all Democrats, but Mr. Kennedy told the Herald he hopes “to have a broad array of Democrats and Republicans on board.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied meddling in last year’s White House race, contrary to the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion.