Washington -- One of the nation's top intelligence officials told Congress Tuesday that despite what he called Russia’s “sustained aggression,” President Donald Trump has not directed him to take any action to counter Russian election meddling.
“I haven’t been granted any additional authorities, capacity, capability” National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I need a policy decision that indicates there is specific direction to do that,” Rogers said.
Senators on both sides expressed irritation with the U.S. government’s failure to prevent Russian interference in the 2016 election and with the lack of a clear strategy to counter yet more meddling in this year’s midterm elections.
“How long are we going to step back and look broadly at this ongoing attack,” asked Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal, telling Rogers he was outraged by Russia’s “disrupting, sowing discord, continuing to attack our democracy in ways that most Americans should find absolutely intolerable.”
“I’m an operational commander - not a policy maker,” Rogers responded. “I am not going to tell the president what he should or should not do.”
Rogers, who was testifying in his capacity as commander of U.S. Cyber Command, said that absent any new direction from the president, his ability to respond is limited by the scope of his existing authority. According to its mission statement, U.S. Cyber Command has a broad mandate to "conduct full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries."
“They haven’t paid a price at least that is sufficient to get them to change their behavior,” said Rogers. “It certainly hasn’t generated the change in behavior that I think we all know we need."
Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, told Rogers “we’ve been humiliated as a country, we’ve lost the first real cyber war our nation has been in. The U.S. government failed to protect the U.S. democracy."
“I don’t think we anticipated the level of sustained aggression,” Rogers admitted.
Asked at Tuesday's White House briefing why Rogers has not been given the authority to counter Russian meddling, press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters, "No one is denying him the authority. We're looking at a number of different ways" to prevent Russian interference.