Ahead of Midterm Elections, US Officials Warn of Russia While Trump Prevaricates
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coates said Thursday that Russia is âa keyboard click awayâ from disrupting Americaâs midterm elections. Joined by a collection of top security officials for a White House press briefing, he noted that Moscowâs meddlers âare looking for every opportunity, regardless of party.â
One must commend Coates for his candor. He is trying, desperately, to raise awareness about one of the gravest, immediate threats to American democracy, despite his bossâs intransigence on the matter. President Donald Trump has continued, in contrast, to prevaricate when asked about Russiaâs interference in U.S. politics. His go-to: ignoring the consensus of the intelligence community, casting doubt on its findings, and offering Russian President Vladimir Putin a free pass. (As recently as two weeks agoâ"days after the disastrous Helsinki summitâ"he called Russiaâs interference âall a big hoax.â)
Whether Trump realizes it or not, this approach serves to further the Kremlinâs aims: fomenting mistrust through disinformation. It is a shame to see it. These are not times for sophistry; the American publicâ"and its allies abroadâ"deserve clarity and guidance. Nothing less than the integrity of the electoral systemâ"the bedrock of this nationâs right to governâ"is at stake.
During my cybersecurity session at Fortuneâs Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. last month, I cited another one of Coatesâ recent remarks as a prompt for my panelists. Coates had warned in the days prior that âthe warning lights are blinking red againâ in a way not observed sin ce the lead-up to the coordinated terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001. Jen Easterly, a security leader at Morgan Stanley and former White House counterterrorism official, replied lucidly. Her answer was so eloquent, I must quote it here in full.
âIâll try not to use any double negatives,â Easterly began, alluding to Trumpâs thin, post-Helsinki summit walk-back regarding Russiaâs election interference. âThere is no mystery. There is incontrovertible evidence of nation state-sponsored attacks and deliberateâ"itâs not just espionageâ"but deliberate sabotage against what we hold dear as part of our constitutional democracy: fair and free elections. I donât say this as an employee of Morgan Stanley; I donât say it as a former senior White House official; I say it as an American and, frankly, as a former military officer who spent 22 years in the army sworn t o support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies both foreign and domestic.â
Her words were refreshing. Itâs the kind of statement one might hope to hear from a chief executive.
This article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Data Sheet, Fortuneâs daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered to your in-box, sign up here.Source: Google News Russia | Netizen 24 Russia