The head of the nation’s largest electronic spy agency and the military’s cyberwarfare arm has quietly directed the two organizations to coordinate actions to counter potential Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections.
The move, announced to staff at the National Security Agency last week by NSA Director Paul Nakasone, is an attempt to maximize the efforts of the two groups and comes as President Trump in Helsinki on Monday said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “extremely strong and powerful” in denying Russian involvement in the presidential election two years ago.
It is the latest initiative by national security agencies to push back against Russian aggression in the absence of direct guidance from the White House on the issue.
On Friday, the same day that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III announced the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers for hacking Democrats’ emails, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats issued a new alert on Russia. “The warning lights are blinking red again,” he said, also likening them to the danger signs that presaged the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack,” he said, adding that if Russia continues to assault the United States in cyberspace, the government should “throw everything we have got into it.”
On Monday, after Trump’s remarks, Coats felt compelled to issue a statement reiterating the intelligence community’s January 2017 assessment that Russia interfered in the presidential election and noted its “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”
The President may not care about continued Russian interference. But at least we have patriots within the Intelligence community, acting against this Russian attack, even if the President is not directing them to.