- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2018

President Trump’s pick for National Security Agency director warned lawmakers Thursday that the government’s lackluster response to alleged Russian election meddling has failed to deter foreign hackers from attacking U.S. targets.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone said that adversaries including Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are willing to continue launching cyberattacks against the U.S. on account of the administration’s subdued reaction to the alleged Kremlin-ordered hacking campaign waged against the 2016 White House race.

“Right now, they do not think that much will happen. They don’t fear us. That is not good,” he told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing Thursday.

“The longer that we have inactivity, the longer that our adversaries are able to establish their own norms,” he added.

His comments came in response to questions offered by Sen. Dan Sullivan, Alaska Republican.



“We really haven’t retaliated at all, whether it be Iran, North Korea, China, Russia,” Mr. Sullivan said. “We seem to be the cyber punching bag of the world, and it’s common knowledge.”

While the U.S. intelligence community concluded more than a year ago that Russia meddled in the 2016 race, officials have repeatedly warned that an undeterred Moscow is more than likely to target the 2018 midterms in November.

“They haven’t paid a price, at least, that has significantly changed their behavior,” Adm. Mike Rogers, the current head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, said during a hearing on Capitol Hill earlier this week, adding that the Trump administration has not specifically directed him to “disrupt Russian cyberthreats where they originate.”

“I need a policy decision that indicates there is specific direction to do that,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “The president ultimately would make this decision in accordance with a recommendation from the secretary of defense.”

If confirmed, Lt. Gen. Nakasone said Thursday that he’d act “with speed” to counter Russian hackers.

“It is deeply disturbing that you say we should act with ‘speed’ a year after the election,” responded Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat. “So you’re telling me we don’t even have a decision to respond yet?”

“If confirmed I would provide a series of options,” replied Lt. Gen. Nakasone. “In this case the ultimate responsibility obviously resides with the president and Congress.”

The Obama administration sanctioned Russia in late 2016 for meddling in the 2016 race. Congress passed legislation in 2017 calling on further sanctions, but the Trump administration declined last month against imposing them.

“We’re looking at a number of different ways where we can put pressure [on Russia],” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this week.

Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 race.

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