Visible to the public Cyber Scene #8 - Checking out, out of, and in with the U.S. Senate on Cyber SecurityConflict Detection Enabled

Cyber Scene

March 17, 2017

Cyber Scene is intended to provide an informative, timely backdrop of events, thinking, and developments that feed into technological advancement of SoS Cybersecurity collaboration and extend its outreach.

Checking out, out of, and in with the U.S. Senate on Cyber Security

During the first nine weeks of 2017, the U.S. Senate has called up both departing or departed U.S. cyber authorities as well as an incoming nominees testifying for confirmation to discuss the harrowing rise and sophistication of foreign cyber threats. Open hearings have addressed the following:

Cyber Security Hail and Farewell from DNIs

Mr. James Clapper had just bid farewell to the U.S. Senate, with accolades from both sides of the aisle, when he was recalled to lead joint testimony on 5 January 2017 before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Intelligence (SASC). Committee Chairman Senator McCain opened the hearing with his own welcome, thanked Mr. Clapper for his extensive service, and provided the framework for the hearing on cyber threats to the U.S. He was followed by the ranking Minority Member and other committee Members in rank order.

Mr. Clapper, then still incumbent Director of National Intelligence, presented his statement for the record which had been submitted to the SASC in advance, and responded to a flurry of questions about the future of cyber security. He was flanked by Adm. Mike Rogers, Commander of CYBERCOM and Director of NSA, and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI) Marcel Lettre. They each responding to questions analyzing the nature and severity of the recent Russian threat, as well as the US posture of cyber deterrence pursued by the Obama Administration which Mr. Clapper had earlier explored in a televised discussion with Charlie Rose.

Given the open nature of the hearing, the Senators posed questions dealing with the harm to the US, the political process, the integrity of U.S. systems, and privacy threats to their constituents and allowed for a follow-on closed hearing which did in fact occur on 7 February. Closed hearings are classified and unavailable for inclusion in this publication.

Mr. Clapper was also called to a double feature session on 10 January before the SSCI--the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. This time he was joined again by Adm. Mike Rogers as well as CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey. SSCI Chair Senator Burr welcomed those testifying and particularly thanked the departing DNI and CIA Director for their service. He judiciously asked that the Members not ask any question that might be classified, or that might elicit a classified response, as they would have that opportunity in the follow-on closed (classified) session which occurred later that day.

In response to his prepared testimony and a follow-on question from a SSCI Member, Mr. Clapper noted that the controversy in the U.S., incited by Russian cyber intrusion, would only encourage more threats. He added that Russia would not hesitate to use all available tools for more offensive attacks. He responded to another question, affirming that this was the new normal. All four guests were asked individually whether they had ever seen this level of cyber threat to the U.S. in their broad experience, and all four independently answered "no."

This open session was followed directly by a closed session which remains classified and unavailable.

DNI then Nominee Dan Coats appeared before the Senate during his confirmation hearings on February 28, 2017, also addressing cyber security issues. Referring to the recent Russian cyber attack, the Honorable Mr. Coats reconfirmed his intent to keep intelligence apolitical, and that any cyber security threats needed to be investigated and addressed. He placed cyber threats at the top of his concerns. He pointed out that recent classified information had not been available to him, as he had only received his clearances days before the testimony. He reaffirmed his pledge to provide unvarnished intelligence assessments to the administration, and that he well understood his responsibility to keep intelligence out of policy formulation for political purposes, particularly in the present charged issues of cyber security. He promised transparency to the American people regarding potential political influence through cyber attacks such as "definitely" occurred in the recent Russian case. The SSCI advanced his candidacy by an 13-2 vote on 9 March, and the Senate confirmed him on 15 March 85-12. A text version of DNI Coats' statement for the record is also available.

For those unfamiliar with the process for testimony before the Congress, questions from respective committee Members are sent just in advance to those testifying. Formal, written testimony is provided by those called upon to testify in advance of the hearing to the entire Committee. Needless to say, all of the above could take only a few days. Those called to testify also present their statements for the record orally, in person, at the hearing (open or closed). Then the committee Members, beginning with the Chair and succeeded in rank order by the Minority Ranking Member and then in declining rank, pose their questions to any of those testifying. Those testifying then respond, as they are called upon, to the individual questions each Member may ask. While the Senate website delivers the video of the process, the DNI website provides the formal, official written text for the record.