By Nicholas Hunter
WASHINGTON — The director of the National Security Agency told the Senate Armed Forces committee Tuesday that the Trump administration has yet to give orders to him and his agency directing the combating of hacking efforts by Russia.
“There are some things I have the authority [to do] and I am acting within that authority,” Adm. Michael Rogers said during his question-and-answer session with the committee.
“I’ve never been given any specific direction to take any additional steps outside my authority,” said Rogers, who also serves as the commander of the United States Cyber Command and the chief officer of Central Security Services. “I have taken steps within my authority, you know, trying to be a good, proactive commander.”
Rogers also told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) he had not “been granted any additional authority” by the president to take action.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pushed back on Rogers’ statements about the Trump administration’s perceived inaction.
“I understand from you that your feeling is you have not been given authority to take additional action … Is that correct?” Blumenthal asked.
Rogers said he had not asked for additional authority from the administration, and when asked why he had not done so, Rogers said he is not convinced his department alone can provide the solution to the problem.
“It could certainly be part of a response — I would certainly acknowledge that,” Rogers said. “I just think we need to step back and look at this very broadly. One of the arguments — not just this current case but others is — be mindful of falling in the trap that, just because someone comes at us in cyber that we have to default to immediately going back and doing the same thing…It’s because of that, that I have not [requested more authority].”
Blumenthal again pushed back, asking how long they can “step back and look broadly” at Russia’s actions.
“I mean, literally, last week in the wake of the Parkland shooting the bots and the fake accounts again and again [are] disrupting, sowing discourse and continuing to attack our democracy in ways that most Americans should find absolutely intolerable,” Blumenthal said.
While Rogers resisted Blumenthal’s assertion, saying it is not his role as a commander to make policy decisions, he later admitted he believes sanctions imposed by the Obama administration and actions by Congress to combat Russian interference have been ineffective.
“It clearly has not changed their calculus,” Rogers said. “It hasn’t changed their behavior.”
Rogers, 58, who has served as director of the NSA since April 3, 2014, is expected to retire from the agency in the spring.