After the revelations of Russian hacking and influencing the US presidential election (and possibly Britain’s referendum on leaving the EU), many will be rightly worried about the possibility of another attack and hoping that America will be prepared for the next round of cyber warfare. They would be wrong.
US Cyber Command chief Adm. Mike Rogers, one of the top officials concerned with national security has told lawmakers a startling fact: Trump has not given him the authority to combat Russian attempts to meddle in future elections. Without the proper authority, Rogers admitted that America might not be ready for the next attack.
Rogers was quick to dismiss the idea that he was powerless in the matter or that the NSA was sitting back and watching it all happen without reacting, but he argued that he was unable to respond as strongly as he would like. Moreover, Russia had not paid any real price for its online activities and, in response, have calculated that the rewards far outweigh the risks-if indeed they see any risks.
The fact that the director of the NSA is admitting this is highly disturbing, not least because of the 2018 mid-terms being vulnerable to another attack. Reports indicate that Russian trolls and hackers are hoping to cause even deeper divisions and sow more chaos in the race to control Congress. Little has been done to deter attacks and while America has the resources to stop it, Rogers made it clear that more needed to be done now.
The White House was just as swift to argue against this view from Rogers, stating that Rogers was not the only official in charge of national security, that the administration was looking at a range of different opinions and that while hacking was a threat, there is no hint of collusion with Russia or any sign that Russia interfered. In short, they hit all the familiar topics and wrapped it up in the warm blanket of spin even if the whole collusion topic looked less than truthful.
Hilariously, it was suggested that Trump was being much harsher on Russia than Obama which will certainly be news to Putin and most Americans. Sadly, no one asked why Trump has still refused to sign off new sanctions passed with bipartisan support. Many declined to comment on Trump choosing to believe Putin over his intelligence agencies and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle regarding Russian interference.
In many ways, Rogers’ admission and warnings show the real effects of Trump’s refusal to admit that he got his job through Russian interference and his stubborn, almost desperate denials in the face of a growing truth. Trump sees the investigation led by Mueller as a partisan witch hunt, engineered by sore-loser Democrats and members of the establishment aimed at frustrating his power. Indeed, his recent Twitter outbursts made sure that everyone knew his feelings on the matter. While high school kids talked about guns, Trump renewed his obsession with the Russia investigation or as he calls it, the great witch hunt.
In many ways, Rogers is an example of how Trump’s denials and partisan attacks are having far-reaching consequences. America is far from helpless, but Russia has become a clear and present threat not just to American democracy, but to the world at large. The mere thought of Russia influencing election results achieves the overall goal: to erode trust in democratic systems and spread fear through the West. Even worse, it’s working!
The 2018 mid-terms face the threat of Russian interference and the prospect of an even more divisive struggle. In fact, almost every election today may have to deal with Russian bots spreading propaganda and misinformation. Is that Facebook port a real person or not? Is this story true? It was hard enough to know five years ago.
Mike Rogers may have to wait a while longer for his authority. Trump might get round to it, right after he takes this call from Putin to thank him for his help.