U.S. President Donald Trump has not ordered or authorized intelligence agencies to retaliate against Russian meddling and disinformation campaigns, resulting in a response that has not deterred Moscow, a top U.S. intelligence official has testified.
Admiral Mike Rogers, director of both the U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, told Congress on February 27 that neither Trump nor Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had granted him additional powers to counter what he said were Russian efforts to sow discord in the United States.
"I've never been given any specific direction to take additional steps outside my authority. I have taken the steps within my authority, you know, trying to be a good, pro-active commander," Rogers said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. "I have not been granted any additional authorities."
Rogers told Congress that he thought a more aggressive response is needed, but that he didn't want to tell the president what to do.
"I believe that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there's little price to pay and that therefore, 'I can continue this activity,'" Rogers said.
"Clearly, what we have done hasn't been enough," he said. "They have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump was looking at ways to prevent Russian meddling and that more measures likely will be taken in coming weeks.
"I can tell you that we are taking a number of steps to prevent this, and we are looking at a variety of other ways that we're going to continue to implement over the coming weeks and months," Sanders said.
Rogers' statements came two weeks after U.S. intelligence chiefs testified that Russia is actively interfering with U.S. congressional campaigns ahead midterm elections in November this year.
Rogers stressed that he expected the Russian meddling that intelligence agencies saw in the 2016 presidential election -- including social-media disinformation campaigns and the theft and leaking of embarrassing internal party documents -- to continue until the United States acts to stop them.
"What I see on the Cyber Command side leads me to believe that if we don't change the dynamic here, that this is going to continue, and 2016 won't be viewed as isolated," he said.
Rogers' statements fueled concern among Democrats on the Senate committee.
"We're watching them intrude in our elections, spread misinformation, become more sophisticated...and we're just, essentially, just sitting back and waiting," said Senator Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the committee.
Rogers said he didn't fully agree with the characterization that the United States was just sitting back and waiting. But he said, "It's probably fair to say that we have not opted to engage in some of the same behaviors that we are seeing" from Russia.
Rogers said he didn't have the day-to-day authority to try to deter Russian activities at their source. He said that authority was held by Trump and Mattis. "There are some things I have the authority to do and I'm acting on that authority," he said.
Rogers said U.S. sanctions and recent indictments of Russians have had some impact. But "it certainly hasn't generated the change in behavior that I think we all know we need," he said.
Earlier this month, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal, Bill Nelson, and Jeanne Shaheen sent a letter to Mattis urging him to order the U.S. Cyber Command to prepare to engage Russian cyberoperators and disrupt Russian activities if they conduct any clandestine influence operations against the upcoming midterm elections.
With reporting by AP and AFP