“The President has a blind spot when it comes to Russia, and so you can expect that that’s the response that he would have,” Romney told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” when asked about a tweet from Trump undercutting his secretary of state’s assessment of the massive hack.
“This is a big wake-up call for us and I think we’re going to have to really rethink our military and national security readiness so when it comes to cyberspace, because this is the warfare of the future and I hope that we get ourselves up to the capacity you would expect the strongest, greatest nation on Earth to have,” the Utah Republican added.
At least half a dozen federal agencies are now known to have been targeted in the breach, including the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber arm and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and State. Investigators are still trying to determine what, if any, government data may have been accessed or stolen in the hack.
Romney similarly said that the cyberattack puts the US in a vulnerable position, and suggested the country should strongly react.
“What Russia has done is put in place a capacity to potentially cripple us in terms of our electricity, our water, our communications,” he told Tapper. “This is the same sort of thing one can do in a wartime setting and so it’s extraordinary dangerous and it’s an outrageous affront on our sovereignty and one that’s going to have to be met with a very strong response, not just rhetorical, important as that is, but also with a cyber response of like magnitude or greater.”
Agencies aren’t ‘optimized for defense’
Chris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told Tapper later in the program that federal agencies are not currently “optimized for defense” and part of the reason his former agency didn’t detect the hack sooner was a bill giving them certain authorities to aggressively root out adversaries hasn’t yet been signed by Trump.
“There is a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act … that’s sitting on the President’s desk waiting for his signature … that would give CISA, my old agency, the authorities to go out and really aggressively hunt and look for these adversaries and that’s what we’re going to have to do to get certainty to the other side of this,” the ex-cyber chief said.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Kevin Liptak and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.