- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 24, 2017

Russia conducted an operation on par with the September 11 terrorist attacks by interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, career intelligence official Michael Vickers said Saturday.

“This attack is really the political equivalent of 9/11 — it is deadly, deadly serious,” Mr. Vickers, a former Green Beret, CIA operative and undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told NBC News in an interview regarding Moscow’s role in last year’s race.

“The Russians will definitely be back, given the success they had,” said Mr. Vickers, 64. “I don’t see much evidence of a response.”

While the U.S. intelligence community concluded months ago that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized an interference campaign targeting last year’s White House race, Mr. Vickers‘ comments came in the wake of a revealing, in-depth article published by The Washington Post on Friday containing previously undisclosed details about the size and scope of the Kremlin-ordered operation as well as the Obama administration’s subsequent response.

President Trump in the past has denied Russia interfered in last year’s contest, and as recently as Thursday he insisted Moscow’s involvement was “all a big Dem HOAX.” In the wake of Friday’s report, however, Mr. Trump seemingly acknowledged Moscow’s role, all the while shifting blame from his Russian counterpart to his predecessor.

“The Obama administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?” Mr. Trump tweeted late Friday.

According to Mr. Vickers, neither the Obama nor Trump administration have signaled so far a willingness to response to Russia’s interference.

“You’ve got to restore some measure of deterrence. You hit ‘em back, punish ‘em in some ways, which I don’t think has been done by the last administration or this one. They are kind of on the offense, and we’re not pushing back,” Mr. Vickers told NBC News.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo seemed to suggested otherwise in a separate interview Saturday, telling MSNBC host Hugh Hewitt that his agency has “heightened emphasis on our ability to stop” Russian cyberattacks, The Hill reported.

The U.S. intelligence community believes Mr. Putin personally authorized a campaign that sought to influence the outcome of last year’s election in part by conducting cyberattacks against Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and polling infrastructure, among other targets. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied interfering in Mr. Trump’s election.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, is currently conducting a special investigation involving in part whether Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian operatives prior to his inauguration. The White House has denied those allegations.

Mr. Vickers began his career in the Armed Forces in the 1970s and has served in several presidential administrations under Republicans and Democrats alike. He retired in 2015.

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