VIDEO: After Facebook Shuts Down Disinformation Campaign, Rubio Highlights Importance of DETER Act
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke on the Senate floor this evening to push for passage of his bipartisan DETER Act in light of today’s announcement by Facebook that it shut down a disinformation campaign that sought to sow chaos ahead of the 2018 elections.
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed that deterrence would likely be successful in preventing election meddling. Earlier this month, Rubio and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) urged the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations Committees to quickly hold a hearing on their DETER Act, which uses the threat of powerful sanctions to dissuade hostile foreign powers from meddling in our elections.
A rough and partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below:
This is designed to drive conflict along the lines in this country that they know drive conflict. These are conflict messages. This is information warfare. This is what they are doing now year-round. In campaigns, they may tailor it for something else, but this is what they are doing to us year-round.
This is what they did in 2016. With the primary objective of getting us to be divided. With the primary objective of ensuring that no matter who won that election, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, the next president of the United States was going to take office with a dark cloud over their head, and a nation continually debating these issues and divided over it. This is how you weaken an adversary from within.
This is 21st century information warfare, and this is what’s happening to our country. And the target of this campaign – it’s not the Democratic Party, it’s not the Republican Party – it’s you: the American people. A foreign country under a foreign dictator is coming into your homes across your computer screen and your mobile phones and targeting you, for psychological and informational warfare. And that is what we have to fully accept and the implications that it has for our country, for its future, for our Republic, for our elections, for our ability to do work here.
I believe in 2016 he looked at the efforts in 2016 and he said I think weakening America from within through an informational warfare campaign will yield great benefits at a cost that I am willing to pay. And I believe as we get closer to 2018 and future elections, he will have to make that decision again. And I believe that one of the things that we can do, is something that the Senator from Maryland, Senator Van Hollen, spoke about earlier and we are working on together. And that is we have to do what we can to ensure that when he makes a decision about what to do in 2018 or beyond, the price of doing it is substantially higher than the benefit he thinks he will gain from informational warfare. And that is the purpose of DETER Act, a bill that we have filed together that continues to gain cosponsors. It’s to make sure that Vladimir Putin knows how high the price will be in comparison to the benefit before he decides what he wants to do about 2018 or beyond. The bill is pretty straightforward. It doesn’t deal with 2016. It doesn’t look backwards. It looks forward.
It says two things. The first is that after every election, the Director of National Intelligence has to issue a report after consulting with the Attorney General, with the White House, with all the heads of the intelligence agencies about whether or not Russia attempted to interfere in our elections. And I’m not talking about five Russian guys on twitter. I’m talking about a real campaign to interfere in our elections and conduct informational warfare for the purposes of disrupting our election, for the purposes of undermining confidence in the ballot box, for the purposes of driving divisions in America. And if the answer is yes, it defines very clearly a set of specific very hard-hitting sanctions in waiting. Sanctions in waiting that will be imposed if, but only if, there is interference. You see, sanctions are important as a penalty for what’s been happening in the past, but deterrence happens when people know what’s going to happen in the future. He’s already paid the price for 2016.
The best way to prevent these things is to change that calculus. The best way to deal with this or any problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. I cannot guarantee that if we pass a strong deterrence bill that he will not still wage informational warfare. But I can almost guarantee that if we don’t, he will at some point in the future, and the target could be the Republicans the next time or anyone, for that matter. Vladimir Putin is not a Republican. He’s Anti-American. And he seeks to destroy this country from within by driving an informational warfare campaign.
And we’re prepared to change and tailor our bill. There are some parts of that bill that need to be altered and refined. We recognize that. We’re working to do that. We are willing to take ideas from anyone. The purpose of this is not to do something reckless or irresponsible. I’m not interested, and I know Senator Van Hollen is not interested in a talking point or a messaging exercise. We want to pass a law which means it has to have 60 votes in the Senate, a majority in the House, and something President Trump will sign.
So we are willing to change the bill so long as it can pass and it will actually have strong enough deterrence and that it’s good public policy without unintended consequences. That’s the purpose of this. And I will close where I began. We make a terrible mistake if we think that this somehow is an effort by Vladimir Putin to engage himself in a partisan competition in the United States. His goal is not to elect one party or any individual candidate. His ultimate goal is to divide us against each other.
We can’t change the past. We can react to it, but we can’t change it. We have a chance to influence the future and that is the point of the DETER Act and why I hope that we can make progress. The election in the fall is less than 100 days away now. We are running out of time to put in place the things that we need to put in place to ensure that this does not continue to happen. We are already pretty irritated about these issues in America. The last thing we need is a foreign, malign power who seeks to weaken us, to have a foothold in making things worse. And in cases like what I just showed, getting us to fight with one another over things that aren’t even real. We are the target of a psychological and informational war. It’s time we stand up for ourselves, and I hope that we will pass something like the DETER Act to do so.