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‘They potentially have the capacity to cripple us’: Romney raises alarm about cyberattack tied to Russia

  • December 21, 2020

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“This is an extraordinarily damaging invasion, and it went on for a long, long time,” Romney said.

The attackers infiltrated federal computer systems through a common piece of server software offered through a company called SolarWinds. 

according to national security officials. The news has renewed calls for a more forceful U.S. digital posture against the country’s geopolitical rivals.

“I think we have to be much more serious about our cyber capabilities – offensive and defensive. I think we have to have a rethink about that at the Department of Defense, as well as our other agencies,” Romney said. “And I think we have to have a very clear-eyed approach to how we deal with Russia going forward.”

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In November, President Donald Trump fired CISA chief Chris Krebs for denouncing claims that the 2020 election was compromised by foreign actors.

Officials at the departments of Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Treasury and the National Security Council also acknowledged that their systems were breached. Officials have widely called it the worst and most wide-reaching hack in American history.

“You can bring a country to its knees if people don’t have electricity, don’t have water and can’t communicate,” Romney said. “What Russia appears to have done is put themselves in those systems in our country. They don’t need rockets to take those things out.

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“They potentially have the capacity to cripple us economically. They went to our businesses. They have the potential to also cripple us with regards to our water and electricity and so forth. So, this is very, very serious.”

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on The Mark Levin Show that the breach was a “very significant effort” that was “pretty likely” perpetrated by Russia. President Trump has downplayed the revelations, insisting that “everything is well under control.”

Romney condemned the “inexcusable silence and inaction from the White House” on the breach during an interview with Sirius XM. 

In his “Meet the Press” interview, Romney called Trump’s comments a “disappointment” but said it was typical of a president who “doesn’t want to recognize Russia for the problem that they are.”

President-elect Joe Biden also has condemned Trump’s comments and has promised a potent response from the incoming administration. 

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“A good defense isn’t enough; we need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyberattacks in the first place,” Biden said Thursday. “I will not stand idly by in the face of cyberassaults on our nation.”

On current U.S. policy, Romney observed that “Russia acted with impunity” because Moscow “didn’t fear what we would be able to do from a cyber capacity.” The senator argued that the provocation “demands a response” but wasn’t sure “if we have the capacity to do that in a way that would be of the same scale or an even greater scale.”

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