Lawmakers on attributing hacks to Russia: Strike back

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Lawmakers and party figures from both sides of the aisle showed their teeth after the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence formally announced that Russia was behind the data breaches at the Democratic National Convention, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and others. 

“Today was just the first step. Russia must face serious consequences. Moscow orchestrated these hacks because Putin believes Soviet-style aggression is worth it. The United States must upend Putin’s calculus with a strong diplomatic, political, cyber, and economic response,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) in a press release. 

Sasse was one of many who had encouraged the Obama administration to acknowledge what many experts said in public and intelligence officials said in private – that Russia was behind the attacks.  

Sasse was far from the only voice calling for a public acknowledgement of Russia’s actions. Others included House Homeland Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“Vladimir Putin’s regime has crossed a line, and he should know that the United States will not allow our political process or our future to be dictated by foreign adversaries,” McCaul said in a press release. 

Within hours of the joint DHS and DNI announcement, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) had already declared he would introduce legislation to force action. 

“Today’s news is further evidence of what happens when the Obama Administration fails to take the cyber threat seriously. That is why I plan to introduce legislation that builds upon my North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act by mandating the Administration sanction Russia’s bad actors who are responsible for malicious cyber activities,” he said. 

In his comments, Schiff noted that the United States is not the first country whose elections Russia has tried to interfere with. 

“We should now work with our European allies who have been the victim of similar and even more malicious cyber interference by Russia to develop a concerted response that protects our institutions and deters further meddling,” he said in a press release. 

Russia’s role in the attacks had been taken more or less as fact in the intelligence and cybersecurity communities. There was technical evidence that connected the attacks to command and control servers, email addresses, third party security networks, website registration companies and other techniques used in other attacks linked to Russian intelligence. 

While a hacker named Guccifer 2.0, a self-described Romanian with no political motives, leaked a large amount of documents, he was unable to speak Romanian when an interviewer tested him. 

Members of Donald Trump’s inner circle have acknowledged the attacks likely came from Russia. Media reports say Gen. Michael Flynn acknowledged it this week at conference in Boston. Trump, however, has not. 

At the first presidential debate, Trump said “She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t know. Maybe it was. It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It could also be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

The DCCC, a victim of the attacks, used a press release to strike out at Trump’s incredulity. 

“This verifies what cybersecurity experts have said about this attack, and with this acknowledgment, Republicans from Donald Trump to Speaker Paul Ryan must recognize this crime for the national security threat that it is, and respond appropriately,” said Meredith Kelly of the DCCC in a press resease. 

Tags Adam Schiff Cory Gardner Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Paul Ryan

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