Obama meek on cy­ber­at­tacks for years be­fore elec­tion hacks

Rus­sia pen­e­trated U.S. net­works in 2014

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

For­eign gov­ern­ments have launched nu­mer­ous cy­ber­at­tacks on the U.S. gov­ern­ment and sen­si­tive in­dus­trial sites, but Repub­li­cans say Pres­i­dent Obama has not re­sponded in a force­ful way to years of Rus­sian hack­ing.

A more as­sertive re­sponse might have headed off the type of hack­ing Rus­sia is ac­cused of launch­ing dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, they say.

Rus­sia, whose sup­posed cy­berof­fen­sive now is gen­er­at­ing a Demo­cratic Party move­ment that would dele­git­imize the in­com­ing pres­i­dency of Don­ald Trump, has hacked Pen­tagon sys­tems. In 2014 it pen­e­trated com­puter net­works at the White House and the State Depart­ment. Nei­ther the White House nor the main­stream me­dia re­acted with any great alarm.

In one of the most ex­ten­sive hacks on Amer­ica, Chi­nese hack­ers in­vaded the mas­sive files of the Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment and

stole per­son­nel data and se­cu­rity back­ground checks of mil­lions of fed­eral work­ers.

In other ex­am­ples, the Fed­eral Re­serve, which sets mon­e­tary pol­icy and over­sees the bank­ing in­dus­try, de­tected more than 50 cy­ber­breaches be­tween 2011 and 2015, and some were called es­pi­onage, Reuters re­ported in June, cit­ing fed­eral records. The IRS also has ac­knowl­edged that tax­payer files have been stolen by hack­ers.

Mr. Obama’s record on de­feat­ing hack­ers has come into fo­cus dur­ing the tran­si­tion as he or­ders a sweep­ing probe of Rus­sia’s al­leged hack on the pres­i­dent’s own Demo­cratic Party.

His White House spokesman has joined Demo­cratic politi­cians in is­su­ing a blis­ter­ing at­tack on Mr. Trump and his aides for ties to Rus­sia, even as it was this ad­min­is­tra­tion that early on reached out to the Krem­lin and asked for a “re­set” in re­la­tions. In 2010 then-Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton helped Moscow cre­ate a “Rus­sian Sil­i­con Val­ley.” White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest even seem­ingly ques­tioned the pa­tri­o­tism of Trump sup­port­ers in Congress.

House in­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Devin Nunes ac­cused Mr. Obama of not tak­ing Rus­sia’s cy­berthreat se­ri­ously un­til now, a month be­fore he leave of­fice, when Demo­cratic Party pol­i­tics are in­volved.

“Rus­sia’s cy­ber­at­tacks are no sur­prise to the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, which has been closely mon­i­tor­ing Rus­sia’s bel­liger­ence for years,” Mr. Nunes said. “As I’ve said many times, the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity has re­peat­edly failed to an­tic­i­pate [Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir] Putin’s hos­tile ac­tions.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, ded­i­cated to delu­sions of ‘re­set­ting’ re­la­tions with Rus­sia, ig­nored pleas by nu­mer­ous in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee mem­bers to take more force­ful ac­tion against the Krem­lin’s ag­gres­sion. It ap­pears, how­ever, that af­ter eight years the ad­min­is­tra­tion has sud­denly awo­ken to the threat,” said Mr. Nunes, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can.

CIA Di­rec­tor John O. Bren­nan, Mr. Obama’s for­mer cam­paign ad­viser and White House aide, has taken the ex­tra­or­di­nary step of hav­ing his agency add to the cli­mate of il­le­git­i­macy Democrats are try­ing to wrap around the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent-elect.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported last week that CIA briefers told sen­a­tors that Mr. Putin had or­dered the hack­ing to help elect Mr. Trump, who spo­rad­i­cally has praised the for­mer KGB of­fi­cer as a stronger leader than Mr. Obama.

The CIA as­sess­ment goes well beyond a state­ment by James R. Clap­per, di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence. He told the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee on Nov. 17 that his agency does not have good in­tel­li­gence on any link be­tween the Putin regime and Wik­iLeaks, the anti-se­crecy web­site that pub­lished emails stolen from the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and from John Podesta, Mrs. Clin­ton’s cam­paign chair­man.

Mr. Clap­per as­sessed Rus­sia’s mo­tives as a de­sire to “in­ter­fere” in elec­tions in the West, as it has done in Europe. He did not say it was de­signed to get Mr. Trump elected.

For­mer CIA of­fi­cer Kent Cl­izbe charges that Mr. Bren­nan has politi­cized the spy agency, and with the hack­ing brief to Congress, even more so to­day.

“But all the politi­ciza­tion of the CIA of the pre­vi­ous eight years is noth­ing com­pared to Bren­nan’s cur­rent op­er­a­tion — his vile use of the good name of the CIA in an at­tempt to in­val­i­date our pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” Mr. Cl­izbe said. “Bren­nan’s mis­use of the CIA in an ef­fort to serve his po­lit­i­cal mas­ters is un­prece­dented and un­for­giv­able. These are the ac­tions of to­tal­i­tar­ian dic­ta­tors, us­ing for­eign se­cu­rity ser­vices to sully po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. Some­one needs to stop him be­fore it’s too late.”

Mr. Earnest, the White House press sec­re­tary, was asked Mon­day what the ad­min­is­tra­tion did to thwart Rus­sia from hack­ing U.S. sites.

“Our in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, our na­tional se­cu­rity agencies, in­clud­ing the FBI and the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, were closely watch­ing Rus­sia’s ma­li­cious cy­ber­ac­tiv­ity,” he said. “There was an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated. It was be­ing closely watched in or­der to pro­tect our democ­racy.”

Mr. Earnest un­leashed a long at­tack on Mr. Trump, a recita­tion that might be un­prece­dented for a White House dur­ing what is sup­posed to be a smooth tran­si­tion.

“You didn’t need a se­cu­rity clearance to fig­ure out who ben­e­fited from ma­li­cious Rus­sian cy­ber­ac­tiv­ity,” Mr. Earnest said. “The pres­i­dent-elect didn’t call it into ques­tion. He called on Rus­sia to hack his op­po­nent. He called on Rus­sia to hack Sec­re­tary Clin­ton. So he cer­tainly had a pretty good sense of whose side this ac­tiv­ity was com­ing down on. The last sev­eral weeks of the elec­tion were fo­cused on a dis­cus­sion of emails that had been hacked and leaked by the Rus­sians. These were emails from the DNC and John Podesta — not from the RNC and Steve Ban­non.”

Mr. Ban­non, a for­mer Bre­it­bart News ex­ec­u­tive, is a se­nior Trump ad­viser headed to the White House.

Mr. Trump said in July that per­haps Rus­sia could find the 33,000 emails deleted from Mrs. Clin­ton’s se­cret server dur­ing her ten­ure at the State Depart­ment. A fed­eral judge ruled that her ex­clu­sive use of a pri­vate server for gov­ern­ment busi­ness vi­o­lated fed­eral in­for­ma­tion laws.

Mr. Earnest also at­tacked Mr. Trump’s sup­port­ers in Congress.

“So what I’ve stated is not an ar­gu­ment but re­ally just a pre­sen­ta­tion of ob­jec­tive facts about what all of you and the Amer­i­can pub­lic knew in ad­vance of the elec­tion,” he said. “And, yes, this was all ma­te­rial that was known by Repub­li­can politi­cians in the Congress that en­dorsed the pres­i­dent-elect. And how they rec­on­cile their po­lit­i­cal strat­egy and their pa­tri­o­tism is some­thing they’re go­ing to have to ex­plain.”

One of those sup­port­ers is Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can and a for­mer Ma­rine Corps of­fi­cer who de­ployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“How mis­in­formed. I think this state­ment ver­i­fies just how out of touch and clue­less this ad­min­is­tra­tion truly is to the de­mands and ex­pec­ta­tions of the pub­lic,” said Joe Kasper, Mr. Hunter’s chief of staff. “There’s a rea­son why Democrats don’t have the House and the Se­nate, and have lost seats in var­i­ous elec­tions. I can tell you that Rep. Hunter was not duped by any stretch, and to ques­tion his pa­tri­o­tism means that he’s be­ing ques­tioned both as a law­maker who loves this coun­try and will fight for its in­ter­ests and a U.S. Ma­rine who did three tours.”

He added: “If the ad­min­is­tra­tion and Democrats are so wor­ried about Rus­sian hack­ing, they should have done some­thing about it. They didn’t, but stat­ing con­cerns now sure makes it one heck of an ar­gu­ment of con­ve­nience.”

As Mr. Obama be­gan his sec­ond term, a num­ber of ex­perts said the U.S. still had not ad­justed to the new world of hun­dreds of hack­ers at­tack­ing Amer­ica daily.

“We are in a con­flict — some would call it war,” Or­a­cle’s se­cu­rity chief Mary Ann David­son told Congress. “Let’s call it what it is. Given the di­ver­sity of po­ten­tially hos­tile en­ti­ties build­ing cadres of cy­ber­war­riors prob­ing our sys­tems for weak­ness, in­fil­trat­ing gov­ern­ment net­works and mak­ing sim­i­lar at­tempts against busi­nesses and crit­i­cal in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing our de­fense sys­tems, is there any other con­clu­sion to be reached?”

It was not un­til Fe­bru­ary that the White House pro­posed $3 bil­lion in new fund­ing to up­grade cy­berde­fenses and ap­point a fed­eral czar to over­see net­work pro­tec­tion.

When Rus­sia hacked the White House two years ago, there did not ap­pear any pub­lic threats against Moscow. The news me­dia treated the story as a sign of the times: China, Rus­sia and other ad­ver­saries are try­ing to hack into thou­sands of com­puter net­works.

What makes the elec­tion hack­ing dif­fer­ent, Democrats say, is that a for­eign power was in­ter­fer­ing in an elec­tion by tar­get­ing Mrs. Clin­ton’s cam­paign chair­man and the DNC. Wik­iLeaks pe­ri­od­i­cally dumped huge vol­umes of emails, cre­at­ing news sto­ries on Clin­ton aides’ in­tol­er­ance to­ward Chris­tians and, some­times, to­ward each other.

Mr. Earnest stopped short of say­ing that the em­bar­rass­ing dis­clo­sures re­leased by Wik­iLeaks were a main fac­tor in the elec­tion’s out­come, not­ing that an­a­lysts have cited a num­ber of is­sues, such as Mrs. Clin­ton’s of­fi­cial emails and her strat­egy in bat­tle­ground states.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.