Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats revealed in a recent threat update issued by the American Intelligence Community (IC) that the U.S. government has launched several investigations looking into the cyber-warfare tactics deployed by foreign states. In a speech addressed to the Hudson Institute, Coats spoke about Russian involvement in recent attacks and labeled the country as one of the “worst offenders” in this area of international exploit. As the Director, Coats timed the release of the statement to precede President Trump’s scheduled talks with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, set to take place in Helsinki, Finland.
Coats commented on the global security situation, “Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.” Comparing these “warning signs” to the indicators which came before the famous September 11th terrorist attacks that killed close to 3,000 people, Coats discussed the importance of such threats and the pressing need to take them seriously in the sphere of both cybersecurity and politics, especially those posed by Russian and China. He also offered updates on U.S. government’s prospects for the full denuclearization of North Korea, developments in counterterrorism, as well as other issues policymakers are currently analyzing for possible lobbying in the future.
Joined by Hudson Institute Distinguished Fellow, Walter Russell Mead, Coats synthesized the issues and affirmed, “It was in the months prior to September 2001 when, according to then-CIA Director George Tenet, the system was blinking red. And here we are nearly two decades later, and I’m here to say, the warning lights are blinking red again.”
Because these recent attacks were so visible and traceable, the U.S. military, the federal government, as well as many state and local authorities are now contemplating the magnitude of this changing landscape and what, if anything, can be done about it. Coats explains, “Focusing on the potential impact of these actions, on our midterm election, misses the more important point: these actions are persistent, they’re pervasive, and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not.” He added, “What’s serious about the Russians is their intent to undermine our basic values, undermine democracy, and create wedges between us and our allies.” These comments and recent political developments all point to the situation’s alarming level of immediacy.
These commentaries from the U.S. director for national intelligence were backed by John Podesta, former chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In an interview with CNN, Podesta reaffirmed Coats’ stern warning, “As the director of national intelligence said, the red lights are blinking—but I think the White House is essentially asleep at the switch.” These statements directly at the U.S. intelligence community were released on the same day the Justice Department revealed the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents, who had all been accused of leaking information from hacked Democratic emails and computer networks two years prior, during the now-infamous 2016 presidential elections.