Congress

Dems push for Russia hacking investigation

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House Democrats have introduced a bill calling for the creation of an independent commission to investigate foreign hacking of the U.S. elections, even as the president-elect continues to dispute the intelligence community's declarations that Russia was behind election hacks.

Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the CIA Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, filed the "Protecting Our Democracy Act," which would create a "National Commission on Foreign Interference in the 2016 Election."

The 12-member bipartisan commission would be tasked with investigating Russia's efforts and activities, as well as those by any other foreign entity, aimed at interfering with or undermining the 2016 election. The commission would have 18 months to deliver its findings, as well as recommendations for hardening America's elections infrastructure.

"We owe it to our constituents to defend the integrity of our representative democracy, starting with finding out what exactly happened and how we prevent it from ever happening again," Swalwell said in a Dec. 7 announcement of the legislation. "While our intelligence agencies have concluded with high confidence that Russia meddled in America's elections, to what degree and whether other state or non-state actors were involved remains unresolved."

The legislation comes a day after seven leading House Democrats sent a letter to the White House calling for a briefing on what the intelligence community knows about the extent of Russia's efforts to interfere in the election.

"Specifically, we are requesting a classified briefing that will provide details regarding Russian entities' hacking of American political organizations; hacking and strategic release of emails from campaign officials; the Wikileaks disclosures; fake news stories produced and distributed with the intent to mislead American voters; and any other Russian or Russian-related interference or involvement in our recent election," reads the letter.

And on Nov. 29, seven Democratic senators on the intel committee addressed a similar letter to the White House calling for the declassification and public release of "additional information concerning the Russian government and the U.S. election."

Nor is it just Democrats who are pushing for further investigation and a more robust response to Russia's election meddling. In a Dec. 7 speech at the Heritage Foundation, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, said America's democracy is under attack.

"Russia's recent hacks should be a wake-up call -- and a call to action," he said in the written version of his speech. "We cannot allow foreign governments to interfere in our democracy. When they do, we must respond forcefully, publicly and decisively."

By the time of publication, McCaul's office had not responded to queries on whether he will support the commission legislation. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) office did not respond as to whether the House will take up the measure.

Meanwhile, in an interview for the "person of the year" issue of Time Magazine, President-elect Donald Trump again rejected the declarations of the intelligence community.

"I don't believe it. I don't believe [Russia] interfered," he said.

Trump's rejection of the intelligence community's attribution of election hacks to Russia has set off alarm bells in the IC and on the Hill.

Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden told an audience at a Dec. 7 cybersecurity event that it was rare for the U.S. government to publicly attribute cyberattacks to nation state actors. It has happened twice, he said, first when the North Koreans attacked Sony and then again when Russian-sponsored interests went after DNC emails.

"We don't say this very often, we don't say this willy-nilly, and when we go out there, I think you can take it to the bank that they did it." Hayden said.

The former top spy remains troubled by Trump's unwillingness to accept the conclusions of the intelligence community on Russian interference.

"That event is true and his position on it remains unchanged, and that makes me worried," he said.

About the Author

Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.


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