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Rubio, Colleagues Criticize Response to Russian Interference in 2016 Election

Feb 6, 2020 | Press Releases

Miami, FL — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Jim Risch (R-ID), members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), issued a joint statement on the additional views they co-authored as part of SSCI’s third volume in the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russian election interference titled, “U.S. Government Response to Russian Activities.”
“Well before the 2016 election, there was clear and mounting evidence that Russia intended to conduct cyber-attacks against our political infrastructure. This report and our additional views demonstrate the Obama administration was paralyzed in recognizing, and incompetent in responding forcefully to Russian attempts to sow discord in the U.S. and influence our elections. Their delayed and ineffective response — combined with other missed opportunities — enabled further Russian aggression. Our report highlights the risks not only of failing to heed intelligence warnings, but also of accommodating authoritarians like Vladimir Putin.”
Today’s installment is the third of five volumes in the Committee’s bipartisan investigation. The first volume, “Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure” was released in July 2019. The second, “Russia’s Use of Social Media,” was released in September 2019. The two remaining installments will examine the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian interference and the Committee’s final counterintelligence findings. 
You can read “Volume III: U.S. Government Response to Russian Activitieshere.
Key Findings and Recommendations:

  • The Committee found the U.S. government was not well-postured to counter Russian election interference activity with a full range of readily-available policy options. While high-level warnings were delivered to Russian officials, those warnings may or may not have tempered Moscow’s activity, and Russia continued disseminating stolen emails, conducting social media-based influence operations, and working to access state voting infrastructure through Election Day 2016.


  • The Committee found that the Obama Administration was constrained in its response by a number of external and internal concerns. Those factors included the highly politicized environment, concern that public warnings would themselves undermine confidence in the election, and a delay in definitive attribution to Russia, among other issues.


  • The Committee found that the Obama Administration treated cyber and geopolitical aspects of the Russian active measures campaign as separate issues. This bifurcated approach may have prevented the Administration from understanding the full extent of the threat Russia posed, limiting its ability to respond.


  • The Committee found that the decision to limit and delay information sharing about the foreign influence threat inadvertently constrained the Obama Administration’s ability to respond.


  • The Committee recommends the U.S. exert its leadership in creating international cyber norms. The rules of cyber engagement are being written by hostile foreign actors, including Russia and China. U.S. leadership is necessary to establish any formalized international agreement on acceptable uses of cyber capabilities.


  • The Committee recommends the Executive Branch prepare for future attacks on U.S. elections. Preparations should include the development of a range of standing options that can be rapidly executed in the event of a foreign influence campaign, as well as regular, apolitical threat assessments from the Director of National Intelligence. The Intelligence Authorization Act covering FY2020, which was passed last year, requires DNI to provide such assessments before regularly scheduled elections.


  • The Committee recommends an integrated response to cyber events. Rather than treating cyber as an isolated domain separate from other geopolitical considerations, current and future Administrations should view cyber as an integral part of the foreign policy landscape.


  • The Committee recommends increased information sharing on foreign influence efforts, both within government and publicly. Credible information should be shared as broadly as appropriate within the federal government, including Congress, while still protecting intelligence sources and methods. Information should also be shared with relevant private sector partners and state and local authorities. In the event that an active measures campaign is detected, the public should be informed as soon as possible with a clear and succinct statement of the threat.