‘America Must Retaliate, and Not Just With Sanctions’

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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Friday used direct language in a threat to Russia after reports surfaced this week of the massive “SolarWinds hack” that reportedly targeted the Department of Energy, which manages the nation’s nuclear arsenal, the Pentagon, and the FBI, among other agencies.

Before we get to Rubio, here’s background on the cyber-attack, as reported by Politico:

The Department of Energy has found evidence that the hackers behind the massive and sophisticated cyber operation breached networks at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, two national laboratories, a DOE field office, and a division of the National Nuclear Security Administration. […]

DOE, which manages the nation’s nuclear arsenal, joins the six previously known federal victims: the departments of Treasury, Homeland Security, State and Agriculture; the National Institutes of Health, and the Commerce Department’s telecommunications policy agency.

U.S. officials believe that the campaign, in which hackers infected software updates for an IT monitoring program made by a company called SolarWinds, is the work of a Russian intelligence agency known for careful, stealthy, long-term operations.

In a radio interview with Fox News host Mark Levin on Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Levin that Russia was “pretty clearly” behind the massive SolarWinds attack.

“That’s right. I can’t say much more as we’re still unpacking precisely what it is, and I’m sure some of it will remain classified.

“But suffice it to say there was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of U.S. Government systems and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well.

“This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”

Despite Pompeo’s concerns, President Trump on Saturday suggested “it may be China” behind the cyber-attack, calling it “far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality”; while Computer Weekly, Rubio, and other sources called it a “grave risk to global security.”

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Rubio calls for more than sanctions.

In two Friday tweets, Rubio was direct in calling for “not just sanctions” in retaliation:

“The full extent of the cyber-hack is still unknown but we already know it is unprecedented in scale & scope, in all likelihood ongoing & at a level of sophistication only a few nation-states are capable of.

The methods used to carry out the cyber-hack are consistent with Russian cyber operations. But it’s crucial we have complete certainty about who is behind this.

We can’t afford to be wrong on attribution, because America must retaliate, and not just with sanctions.”

And on Saturday, the Florida senator said it had become “increasingly” clear that Russia was behind the attack.

“Increasingly clear that Russian intelligence conducted the gravest cyber intrusion in our history. The process of determining its extent & assessing the damage is underway. Remediation will take time & significant resources. Our response must be proportional but significant.”

“Proportional by significant.” Like-attacks against Russian government agencies and institutions?

Assuming Pompeo, Rubio, and U.S. Intelligence is correct in identifying Russia as behind the massive cyber-attack against sensitive U.S. institutions, it’s inconceivable that the attack would have been launched without Vladimir Putin’s blessing. Therefore, one (this one, anyway) wonders what Putin executed. Did he think he’d get away with it? Or did think to himself, “Meh, sanctions. ‘Beeg’ deal.”?

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I’m aware that some folks delight in throwing Rubio under the bus and far as they can. I’ll set that aside: Marco Rubio was right.



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