Sen. Angus King reprimanded U.S. intelligence officials during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Tuesday over their lack of preparedness for cyber attacks and the prospect of future cyber attacks on U.S. elections.
“I am sick and tired of going to these hearings which I have been going to for five years where everybody talks about cyber attacks, and our country still does not have a policy or a doctrine or a strategy for dealing with them,” King said.
“And this is not a criticism of the current administration,” he continued. “I am an equal opportunity critic, the prior administration didn’t do it either. Admiral Rogers, until we have some deterrent capacity, we’re going to continue to be attacked. Isn’t that true?”
“Yes, sir. We have to change the current dynamic. We are on the wrong end of that cost equation,” Director of National Security Admiral Rogers responded.
Sen. King then asserted that there are “no repercussions” and “no doctrine of deterrence.” The Intel officials’ responses were tepid.
“Director Coats, you have a stunning statement, they will work to use cyber operations to achieve strategic objectives unless they face repercussions for their operations. Right now there are none. Is that not the case? There are no repercussions. We have no doctrine of deterrence. How are we going to get them to stop doing this if all we do is patch our software and try to defend ourselves?” asked King.
“Those are relevant questions, and I think everyone not only at this table but in every agency of government understands the threat that we have here and the impact already being made through cyber threats. Our role as intelligence community is to provide all of the information we can as to what is happening so our policy makers can take that, including Congress, and shape how we are responding to this and deal with this in a whole of government way,” said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
King turned to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, asking, “It just never seems to happen. Director Pompeo, you understand this issue, do you not? We’re not going to be able to defend from cyber attacks by being defensive, we have to have a doctrine of deterrence. If they strike us in cyber, they’ll be struck back in some way.”
“I agree,” stated Pompeo. “Though I can’t say much in this setting, I argue your statement we have done nothing does not reflect the responses that frankly some of us at this table have engaged in and United States government engaged in before and after this, both during and before this administration.”
Pompeo then said that he did want to comment at that time whether or not U.S. adversaries are aware of U.S. preparedness to deter attacks.
The Senator went on to say that he does not want to have to answer for a problem that could have been prevented had U.S. intelligence been prepared to respond competently and in a timely manner.
“That’s not going to fly,” Sen. King said.
“If someone is attacking you and there’s no retribution or response, it is going to incentivize more contacts. Right now, there are a lot of blank checks of things we need to do,” responded Director Coats.