2/14/2019 — 

The media, too, should contemplate what its responsibilities are to the citizens of this country when covering elections. They should be wary of covering aspects of political campaigns in ways that may aid or abet foreign information operations. While we must always protect the constitutional right of freedom of the press, the media may come to conclude that covering hacked materials without appropriately framing the source of those materials or including comments from Kremlin-linked trolls claiming to be American citizens is no longer appropriate.

Further, as I discussed in part 1 of this speech, a major line of effort for Russia is Kremlin-directed deception operations using social media to penetrate our political and social debates and magnify feelings of fear and mistrust. Our American playbook must also include ways to educate our citizens with knowledge of these plots and provide additional media literacy tools, including teaching our young people how to evaluate what they see online and further make the case to the public for the importance and value of democratic institutions.

In addition, we must strengthen support for one of our greatest strategic advantages—our alliances and partnerships globally. We must take steps to educate the American public about the central role alliances play for our national security. We must also look outward, supporting our alliances and stepping up our diplomatic outreach to help resolve longstanding regional conflicts overseas so that Russia may no longer use information warfare campaigns to exploit those situations to their advantage.

Our responses to Russian information operations are most effective when we act in concert with allies and partners. The sanctions levied on Russia after their illegal annexation of Crimea were effective because they were implemented together with the EU. We have also witnessed the effects of the more than 25 countries expelling Russian diplomats in solidarity with the United Kingdom in response to the Skripal poisoning. The United States worked closely with Greece to blunt Russia’s attempts to undermine an agreement between Greece and North Macedonia that would open the door for North Macedonia to join NATO. As these examples show, the cost to Russia is greater when they aren’t simply dismissed as a unilateral shunning by the United States. As the former Estonian Foreign Minister and Ambassador to Russia stated: Joint initiatives are more likely to deter hackers. If they don’t take seriously one country, they will take seriously 30 countries when they will jointly blame a hacker or foreign nation for an attack. Last week, the Acting Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security certified that our government ‘‘concluded there is no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure used in the 2018 midterm elections.’’

However, we should not take that certification as a reason to let down our guard. We seem to be getting better at responding to the types of attacks perpetrated against the United States in 2016, but that is no indicator that we have become better at anticipating future attacks. The Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned last November: The [2018] midterm is . . . just the warmup or the exhibition game. . . . The big game for adversaries is probably 2020.

This statement was reinforced by DNI Coats, who testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee late last month: ‘‘Our adversaries and strategic competitors are probably already looking to the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests,’’ and also ‘‘Moscow may employ additional influence toolkits—such as spreading disinformation, conducting hack-and-leak operations or manipulating data—in a more targeted fashion to influence U.S. policy, actions and elections.’’ We must think creatively to ensure that we are ahead of this curve. I am confident that this is a challenge that we can meet and conquer with Presidential leadership, a whole of government approach, and the energy and resources necessary. We can and we must do this. As President John F. Kennedy said: ‘‘We are not here to curse the darkness but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.’’

I yield the floor.