Acting DNI Maguire describes 'cyber war' as greatest threat to the country

Acting DNI Maguire describes 'cyber war' as greatest threat to the country
© Greg Nash

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on Thursday testified that cyber threats are the most significant risks the nation faces and noted that the protection of U.S. election systems is “the most important job” of the intelligence community.

“We do face significant threats, I’d say No. 1 is not necessarily kinetic, it’s cyber, this is a cyber war,” Maguire said while testifying before the House Intelligence Community about the whistleblower complaint regarding President TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE. “We talk about whether or not the great competition is taking place with Russia and China, and we are building ships and weapons to do that, but in my estimation the great competition with these countries is taking place right now and is doing that in the cyber realm.”

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Maguire made these comments after being asked by Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdRepublicans, Democrats brace for first public testimony in impeachment inquiry Sunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates Intelligence panel Republican: 'How we treat this whistleblower will impact whistleblowers in the future' MORE (R-Texas) what he saw as the “greatest threats” to the country in his capacity as leader of the intelligence community, particularly as Thursday marked the first time for Maguire to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

Maguire also zeroed in on threats to U.S. elections, and emphasized the importance of keeping the election process free from foreign interference.

“I think the greatest challenge that we do have is to make sure we maintain the integrity of our election system,” Maguire said. “We know right now that there are foreign powers that are trying to get us to question the validity of whether or not our elections are valid."

He emphasized that “first and foremost, I think that protecting the sanctity of our elections within the United States, whether it be national, city, state, local is perhaps the most important job that we have with the intelligence community.”

Maguire’s remarks were made in the midst of a hearing focused on the disclosure by an anonymous whistleblower that Trump tried to enlist the help of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July phone call to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Trump DACA fight hits Supreme Court Juan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete MORE.

The whistleblower alleged in the complaint, declassified on Thursday morning, that they were concerned Trump’s actions “pose risks to U.S. national security and undermine the U.S. Government’s efforts to deter and counter foreign interference in U.S. elections.”

The phone call between Trump and Zelensky took place the day after former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE testified before the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees on the findings of his report on Russian interference efforts in the 2016 elections.

During questioning by Hurd on Russian interference efforts, Mueller testified that the Russians were attempting to interfere “as we sit here,” and said that he expected Russia to interfere in the 2020 elections.