Republican Senator Mitt Romney has said a widespread data breach across the US government was “extraordinarily damaging” and that President Donald Trump has a “blind spot” when it comes to Russia, which US officials suspect was behind the hack.
“We’ve come to recognise that the president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia,” Romney told NBC news.
US officials and researchers say they believe at least half-a-dozen US government agencies have been infiltrated and thousands exposed in what appears to be one of the biggest such hacks ever uncovered.
Trump acknowledged the hacking on Saturday, almost a week after it was first reported, downplaying its importance and questioning whether the Russians were to blame and suggesting, without evidence, that China could be behind the attack.
“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!),” he said on Twitter.
Trump’s message contradicted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said on Friday that Russia was “pretty clearly” behind the hack, which is continuing.
The revelations come at a vulnerable time as the US government grapples with a contentious presidential transition and the coronavirus health crisis.
US Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on ABC that the hack could still be going on and that officials had yet to determine its full scope. But he stopped short of the aggressive language used by Romney, who called the hack “an invasion”.
“This is in that grey area between espionage and an attack,” Warner said. Still, he backed Romney’s call for retaliation, saying Washington needed to make clear to adversaries “that if you take this kind of action we and others will strike back”.
The team of President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, will consider several options to punish Russia over its suspected role once he takes office, from financial sanctions to retaliatory hacks on Russian infrastructure, people familiar with the matter say.
Incoming White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, told CBS that Biden was thinking beyond sanctions.
“It’s not just sanctions, it’s steps and things we could do to degrade the capacity of foreign actors to engage in these attacks,” he said on Sunday.
But he cautioned that there were still many unknowns.
“I think there’s still a lot of unanswered questions about the purpose, nature, and extent of these specific attacks,” he said.
SOURCE : NEWS AGENCIES