Senior United States intelligence officials face questions at a Senate hearing that will be dominated by the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the presidential election to help Republican Donald Trump prevail over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The Armed Services Committee’s cyber threats hearing on Thursday comes a day before the U.S. President-elect is to be briefed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CBI) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) directors along with the director of national intelligence on the investigation into Russia’s alleged hacking efforts.
Mr. Trump has been deeply critical of their findings, even appearing to back controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s contention that Russia did not provide him with hacked Democratic e-mails.
The committee’s session is the first in a series aimed at investigating purported Russian cyber-attacks against U.S. interests and developing defences sturdy enough to blunt future intrusions.
“We will obviously be talking about the hacking, but the main thing is the whole issue of cybersecurity,” the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said ahead of the hearing. “Right now we have no policy, no strategy to counter cyberattacks.”
Slated to appear before the Armed Services Committee are James Clapper, national intelligence director; Marcel Lettre, under-secretary of defense for intelligence; and Michael Rogers, National Security Agency chief and the top officer at the U.S. Cyber Command.
Accusations that Russia interfered in the 2016 election by hacking Democratic email accounts have roiled Washington for weeks. President Barack Obama struck back at Moscow in late December with a sweeping set of sanctions targeting Russia’s leading spy agencies — the GRU and FSB — that the U.S. said were involved. The GRU is Russia’s military intelligence agency.
The FSB is the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB.
He can rescind the curbs
But the sanctions against both Russian intelligence agencies could easily be rescinded by Mr. Trump, who has so far publicly refused to accept the conclusion that Russia is responsible for the attacks.