NSA Chief: U.S. Response 'Hasn't Changed The Calculus' Of Russian Interference : The Two-Way Adm. Michael Rogers says Russian President Vladimir Putin has concluded he can continue to meddle in U.S. cyberspace with little price to pay.
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NSA Chief: U.S. Response 'Hasn't Changed The Calculus' Of Russian Interference

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NSA Chief: U.S. Response 'Hasn't Changed The Calculus' Of Russian Interference

NSA Chief: U.S. Response 'Hasn't Changed The Calculus' Of Russian Interference

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

If it's anyone's job to go after Russia for meddling in U.S. elections, it would probably be the job of Admiral Mike Rogers. He's director of the National Security Agency and of the U.S. Cyber Command. But Rogers is telling Congress it's not that simple. He says President Trump has not given him the green light to target Russia's online sabotage at its source. Here's NPR's David Welna.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: It was likely Admiral Rogers's last appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, since he'll soon be retiring. Jack Reed, the panel's top Democrat, seized the occasion to push Rogers on just how much leeway he's being given to disrupt Russian election-hacking operations at the point where they originate.

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MIKE ROGERS: If granted the authority - and, I don't have the day-to-day authority to do that - if granted the authority.

JACK REED: So you would need basically to be directed by the president through the secretary of defense.

ROGERS: Yes, sir.

REED: Have you been directed to do so given the strategic threat that faces the United States and the significant consequences you recognize already?

ROGERS: No, I have not.

WELNA: At the White House, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders pushed back when asked why Rogers had not been given such authority.

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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Nobody is denying him the authority. We're looking at a number of different ways that we can put pressure. Look, this president, as I told you last week, has been much tougher on Russia than his predecessor.

WELNA: But under questioning from Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal, Rogers did not portray Russia as buckling under any pressure from the White House.

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RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Would you agree with me that the Russians have been in no way deterred from...

ROGERS: Yes, sir. I think that's true.

BLUMENTHAL: They're doing it with impunity. They could care less what we think. They're continuing to attack us.

ROGERS: Yes, sir.

WELNA: None of the Republicans on the panel had questions for Rogers about Russia's election meddling, but other Democrats did. Massachusetts' Elizabeth Warren wanted Rogers to tell her what message Russian President Vladimir Putin got from Trump's refusal to enforce sanctions against Russia for its cyber-intrusions.

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ROGERS: I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there's little price to play here.

ELIZABETH WARREN: Bingo.

ROGERS: And that therefore I can continue this activity.

WARREN: Yes.

WELNA: And Rogers also had a warning for the Senate panel - this is not going to end anytime soon.

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ROGERS: Everything, both as a director of NSA and what I see on the Cyber Command side, leads me to believe that if we don't change the dynamic here, this is going to continue, and 2016 won't be viewed as something isolated. This is something that will be sustained over time.

WELNA: Still, when asked whether he'd requested additional authority to pursue Russian cyberthreats, Rogers said he had not, first because he's an operational commander, not a policymaker. And second because he was not sure the best response to cyberattacks would be to do the same thing to the adversary. Rogers pointed to economic sanctions and special counsel Robert Mueller's indictment last week of 13 Russians as other ways to hit back.

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ROGERS: There are tools available to us. And again I think, in fairness, you can't say nothing's been done. But my point would be it hasn't been enough.

WELNA: Rogers assured the panel Russia is seeking to undermine America's institutions, but he would not directly criticize the man who could give him more power to fight back. I am not going to tell the president, Rogers said, what he should or should not do. David Welna, NPR News, Washington.

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