Blumenthal: Demeaning, Dismissive Comments about U.S. Intelligence are 'Dangerous'

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, raised concerns at a hearing of the Armed Services Committee today regarding “very demeaning and dismissive comments” about the U.S. intelligence community made by President-elect Donald Trump that pose a danger to our national security. Today’s hearing, “Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States” focused on the evidence of Russian influence on the 2016 election as part of a coordinate cyber-attack against the United States.

“I want to explore a little bit why these very demeaning and dismissive comments about our intelligence community are so dangerous to our nation. Is it not true, Mr. Clapper that public support for robust responses to cyber-attacks on our nation depends on the credibility of our intelligence community, and dismissing the very significant and credible conclusions about the Russian attack undermines public support for actions that the President must take to deter and punish these kinds of actions,” Blumenthal asked.

“I think some of the disparagement has been a terrible disservice to our nation, and to the very brave and courageous men and women who put their lives at risk so that this nation can be better informed in using our military and other force.”

Video of Blumenthal’s remarks is available here.

During the hearing, Blumenthal also addressed comparisons between intelligence reports on Russian interference in the election to the judgments made before the Iraq War, calling such arguments “totally a red herring.” James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, agreed and said, “Whatever else you want to say about the intelligence community, it is a learning organization, and we do try to learn lessons. It’s a very difficult business, and getting harder all the time. There will be mistakes, but what we do try to do, as we did after the National Intelligence Estimate in October 2002 on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, was to learn from that, profit, and make change. And our posture, particularly with respect to a very important document – the apex of our product line, the National Intelligence Estimate – is as different as night and day.”

Blumenthal has supported bipartisan efforts to defend critical infrastructure against cyber-attacks, and has led efforts to protect online personal information against data theft. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blumenthal also helped elevate U.S. Cyber Command to a unified combatant command, allowing for a faster and more robust response to cyber threats. Over the last several weeks, Blumenthal has been vocally supportive of a bipartisan investigation into growing evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election. “That investigation of [Russia’s] most recent effort to interfere in our elections is one that really should be done soon, it should have bipartisan support, and it should be sufficiently resources that it can be effective,” Blumenthal said at another hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in early December. 

Blumenthal is also a co-sponsor of legislation to create an independent, nonpartisan commission to comprehensively investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. The commission would fully investigate alleged Russian cyberattacks on U.S. political entities and election infrastructure, seek to identify those responsible, and recommend a response as well as actions the U.S. can take to defend itself in the future. Modeled on other independent commissions, this body would compile all available classified intelligence and open source information, conduct hearings and interviews, with subpoena power, and report its findings to Congress within 18 months from being formed. The membership of the commission would be individuals appointed by the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional leadership.