U.S. National Intelligence Chief Sounds Chilling Alarm On Cyber Attacks
America’s director of national intelligence has issued a disturbing “red alert” about a dangerous new level of cyber warfare on the U.S. The danger signs are as serious as early signs ahead of 9/11, Dan Coats warned at a Washington think tank conference.
“I’m here to say the warning lights are blinking red again,” said Coats. “I believe we are at a critical point.” The digital infrastructure of the U.S. “is literally under attack,” he added.
Coats’ alarm comes just as Donald Trump is preparing to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday. On Friday 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted on charges accusing them of hacking Democratic National Committee emails in an effort to manipulate the U.S. presidential election.
Russia has been “the most aggressive foreign actor, no question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy,” Coats said in an appearance at the Hudson Institute Friday. China, Iran and North Korea also continue to wage cyber warfare on America, he added. Targets include the federal government, the military, state and local governments, business and academia, he warned.
What’s particularly disturbing about Russia “is their intent,” Coats said. “They have capabilities, significant capabilities. But it’s their intent to undermine our basic values, undermine democracy, create wedges between us and our allies.”
Intelligence officials have seen aggressive attempts, including by those “masquerading as Americans,” to manipulate social media and to “spread propaganda focused on hot-button issues that are intended to exacerbate socio-political divisions,” Coats noted.
The intelligence director said if he were to meet Putin Monday he would say: “We know what you’re doing … If your goal is to strengthen Russia in the proper way, we can cooperate with you … But if you want to stay in this tit-for-tat, we’re going to beat you.”
Coats also called on Americans to “verify the credibility of the sources of information upon which they base their decisions.” We must “all apply critical thinking” to information, he said.
In the wake of the new indictments of Russian intelligence officers, Trump is under increasing pressure to call off his summit with Putin. If he goes through with it, he’s being pressed to call Putin out on cyber attacks.
But Trump, whose campaign is being investigated for possible collusion with the Kremlin, doesn’t appear likely to do that. And the president has expressed a willingness to believe Putin’s denials.
“Every time [Putin] sees me, he says, ’I didn’t do that,” Trump said last year, referring to Russian meddling in the U.S. election. “And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. I think he is very insulted by it.”
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