NSA boss Mike Rogers told a US congressional panel today that Russia’s online mischief-making in America's elections is not going to stop – because Uncle Sam isn’t hitting back.
"I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here, and that therefore I can continue this activity," Admiral Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"Everything, both as the [NSA] director and what I see on the US Cyber Command side, leads me to believe that if we don’t change the dynamic here, this is going to continue, and [the 2016 elections] won’t be viewed as something isolated. This is something that will be sustained over time."
WATCH: NSA Director Rogers on Russian cyberattacks: "I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there's little price to pay here, and that therefore I can continue this activity." pic.twitter.com/3c5gGLvrAS— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 27, 2018
Despite repeated testimony from US intelligence officials stating that Russia has waged a years-long campaign to destabilize the US by spreading disinformation, discourse and divisive messaging online, very little action has been taken as President Trump maintains the issue is overblown. Congress voted for a serious crackdown on Russia with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, but so far the White House has chosen not to follow through and take punitive action.
Admiral Rogers said his cyber-warriors had taken some steps to "begin some specific work" on tackling the Kremlin's interference, but that more offensive action would need a direct order from the President or the Secretary of Defense. He said, so far, there have been no such orders.
Rogers has a point. Any non-trivial actions taken by US Cyber Command, overseen by the NSA, could be considered an act of war, and as such would require some serious authorization. The agency needs the President's approval to attack, knacker, or shut down a foreign government's computer systems.
There are other measures that could be taken against Russia, besides going on the cyber-offensive, the NSA boss pointed out, such as putting in place fresh economic sanctions. However, as mentioned above, those have not been forthcoming, either.
"Rogers requires an order from Trump to conduct computer network operations," explained New York Times cybersecurity guru Nicole Perlroth. "Without that order, NSA cannot proactively address Russian cyber threats."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disagreed with Admiral Rogers’ views. In a briefing, Sanders claimed Rogers had all the authority he needed.
"Nobody is denying him the authority" to take action, the spinner suggested. "We are focused on looking at a variety of different ways. Department of Homeland Security [Secretary] Kirstjen Nielsen met with a number of state, local and federal officials on all the ways we can best prevent things. We are looking at a number of different options."
And, of course, it must be said: it's not like America has ever interfered with other nations' elections, cough. ®