With congressional oversight disjointed and the intelligence community asserting Russian interference in the presidential election, Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.) on Friday called on House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) to establish a committee to oversee cyber security issues, beginning with Russia’s meddling in the campaign.
“Unfortunately, Congressional oversight of the topic is fractured,” Langevin says in a Dec. 16 letter to Ryan. “At least eighty committees and subcommittees claim some jurisdiction over the issue across the House and Senate. The splintered nature of the oversight provided by Congress has not allowed us to act as nimbly as we need to in order to protect the nation from the fast-evolving cyber threat.”
Langevin, who co-chairs the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus and is a member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, says the select committee should be stood up for the 115th Congress, suggesting that in addition to cutting across jurisdictional lines the panel could be a “blueprint” for how the House oversees cyber security policy and whether it should eventually become a permanent select committee.
A month ahead of the presidential election between the Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton and her Republican opponent Donald Trump, the United States intelligence community on Oct. 7 and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint statement saying they are “confident” that a hack of the Democratic National Committee’s network and subsequent release of emails to WikiLeaks and other websites that publish restricted content was directed by the Russian government. Since then, news reports have said the CIA believes that Russia was trying to influence the outcome of the election in favor of Trump, that the intelligence community believes Russian President Vladimir Putin directed the hacking, and President Barack Obama has ordered a review of Russia’s cyber attacks related to the elections.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calf.) said last week his panel is overseeing the investigations into the election-related cyber attacks. He also stated the committee will ensure the “analytical integrity” of the report ordered by Obama but that there is no reason for his panel to do its own investigation so as to not “duplicate current committee oversight efforts and Intelligence Community inquiries.”
Langevin in his letter to Ryan says the “breadth” of the investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the election is beyond the scope of the Intelligence Community, which is why a select committee free of jurisdictional constraints “while still allowing for a single coordinated effort that can move quickly.”
Ryan last Monday in a statement said that “any foreign intervention in our elections is entirely unacceptable. And any intervention by Russia is especially problematic because, under President Putin, Russia has been an aggressor that consistently undermines American interests.”
But Ryan also seems concerned that the intelligence community’s investigation into Russia’s information war against the U.S. is being exploited for partisan gain without naming the culprits.
“At the same time, exploiting the work of our intelligence community for partisan purposes does a grave disservice to those professionals and potentially jeopardizes our national security,” Ryan stated. “As we work to protect our democracy from foreign influence, we should not cast doubt on the clear and decisive outcome of this election.”
Langevin believes that the biggest security risk facing the U.S. is cyber due to the nation’s “pervasive” reliance on communications technologies.
“Russian interference with the election exemplifies the breadth of the cybersecurity challenge facing the country,” Langevin says.