tv Discussion Focuses on Russias Election- Year Hacking CSPAN January 30, 2017 4:29am-6:00am EST
administration. about if russian president vladimir putin ordered so-called hacking on the 2016 presidential election. this is an hour and a half. >> welcome to the center for national interest. we will have an important conversation about russia and the issues with moscow and america's response. about russi the issues with moscow and america's response. it is an important topic and something that a lot of people, a lot of journalists, a lot of people in congress are talking about so hopefully we will be able to shed some light in
addition to a lot of noise we should find around town. this sadis -- this is a distinguished group. i will introduce chairman of the board, charles byte who has distinguished experience. and also with us the congressional commission on u.s. nation interests. the commission which actually made the recommendation before september 11th. recommendati recommendations which were praised but not entirely accepted.
and roberts, member of our board. republican from kansas, chairman of the cultural committee and former chairman of the committee on intelligence. a person with a very strong foreign policy, nation security ba background relevant to our discussion today. we have two speakers. paul saunders, he is the executive and he is running the russian program and senior advisor at the state department during the george w. bush administration. paul has expertise in u.s. russia relations. at that time, i have to say if there was american democracy promotion in russia, not russian interference in the united states but it provides you with
a certain perspective. george beebe is truly one of the most insightful and serious american experts of russia. george was a foreign service officer, stationed in moscow, became a member, i think it is called senior intelligence service; right? was also director of russian analysis of the cia and before that was special advisor to vice president cheney who has many of you know was not suspected of particular ways as par as russia was concerned. and george published a very powerful piece several weeks ago where he was raising some questions about how reliable was
our involvement in russian interference and not so much if the russian interference existed and what level it was trying to accomplish. most of our speakers will speak for ten minutes. >> thanks, dimitri and to the center for the invitation. i would like to keep my remarks brief and focus on what we know, don't know and what we might m sumise about russia's role in the presidential election. the reaction to the report has been quite striking and quite divided. "the new york times," i think, was representative of one general reaction. they called the report surprisingly detailed and damming. people that work in the
information technology industry, cyber experts on the other hand had quite a different reaction. they often use words i cannot repeat in the family environment about the report but they generally found it sloppy and weak in the u.s. of evidence. this leaves the general public with a question. are we dealing with a report that is surprisingly detailed and damming or is it weak and sloppy? interestingly enough this is the kind of question intelligence agents are paid to answer. where does truth lie amid controversy and conflicting claims and incomplete information. this is not an easy thing to do. why is that? smart people are generally not good at answers questioning like this.
the human mind is not designed to answer these kinds of things. we are prone to conformation bias, seeing what we expect to see in sets of information, we are not particularly good at putting ourselves in the shoes of other people and seeing things from their perspective particularly the perspective of foreign actors which makes it hard for us to understand their intentions a lot of times. we have a bias toward expecting the future to look like the prese present. status quo bias if you will. when we approach a question like this, we have to make conscious effort to account for all those tendency. i want to do that briefly in the evidence we have in the case of russia's role in the election. i would like to focus only on information that is in the public domain. i obviously don't know what classified information there might be out there. it is certainly possible that
the intelligence community has conclusive diagnostic evidence about what happened and why. what we do have in the public domain, i think, raises red flags we really need to center. i want to look at some of them. the first is an area of attributi attribution. the report says this is an operation that is explicitly ordered by president putin with specific goals in mind. the forensic evidence we have in the public domain is not particularly impressive in this regard. first of all, it is -- it is -- there are a couple things i want to address in this. one is the number of intrusions
sthevenlz. according to the forensic beta there were two separate intrusions in the democratic national committee e-mail servers. the first occurring in the summer of 2015. this is around the time that now president trump was first announcing his running for the presidency and the second occurred in march of 2016. they each took roughly the same sets of information. this is unusual. if you are looking to maintain operational security, the more often you penetrate a target the more often you are likely to be caught. the fact they went after the
same information raises questions about if they were centrally directed. this is the fruit of bureaucratic rivalry. we have the gru that penerated on one occasion and the fsb on another that penetrated on a seco second occasion. that is a possible situation. we ought to consider an alternative hypothesis and these were not centrally directed intrusions.
could this have been a false flag operation? the evidence we have is consistent with all of these hypothes hypothesis. the second is the sloppiness. the chinese had a reputation for being sloppy in their intrusions. the analogy might be an intruder who breaks in the home and leaves muddy fingerprints everywhere. almost as if we didn't care china was behind the operation. the russians have been more like there intruder that you don't even know they entered your home and two years after the fact you figure out something is missing how did that happen? they are quite stelt.
they left all kinds of indicators that would point toward russian. the compiling all took place during moscow business hours. that is an easy thing to fix. even entry level hackers figure out how to program compiling so it doesn't leave that kind of clue. some of the e-mails that were leaked contained meta data put in using silk keyboards. one of the users behind the leaks had a code name of felix mune vich which apparently was a clear reference to the founder of the soviet checaw.
these are not typical of russian cyber operations making you wonder was it really them? or did they want to be found which is another possibility we ought to consider. the last thing is the level of sophi sophistication on the intrusions not very high. the experts looked at the malware used and said it was off the shelf, widely available, anybody could have done this. it is not custom-crafted code that you would say you need a sophisticated intelligence level operation to undertake this.
all of these are not to say this shows the russian government isn't behind it. i think that is a plausible hypothesis. there are big implications behind the judgments we are talking about. before we go down the saying we are concern, i think we owe to ourselves to think hard about the facts we have in front of us can be explained in other ways. i hope we can learn lessons prom
that case and apply them here so we don't make them again. that is attribution. the other part is intent. intent is an even harder not to crack than attribution and attribution in the cyber world is slippery thing. it is a rare you get definite intelligence that allows you to understand the motives driving the conduct you are seeing. it instruct me in the ic report on this that it was categorical about the extend it was describing. nothing less than undermining the u.s.-led democratic order. are the other ways of
attributing intent? i think there are. there are a couple plausible explanations. one is cyber espionage. the penetration of the dnc servers can be explained as a simple attempt at espionage information gathering. it is reasonable to say the russian intelligence services have a standing list of collection priorities it would include plans and intentions of foreign governments, the technical specifications of weapons systems, what is likely to occur in elections and change of governments are very logical things for russia trying to gather information in this area.
they stumble upon information that has relevance in the context of u.s. elections. it is one thing to gather that information available. once you do that you cross the line from espionage and interference in an election. i think that is a fair point. however, to cross that line you don't have to have a goal of undermining the national order or destroying our faith in our electoral system. one simple explanation might be tit for tat. the russians, i think, rightly or wrongly, believe that the united states habitual interferes in elections abroad.
not just in spaces of the former soviet union and elsewhere including russia. the record of their perception is clear. it is fairly easy thing for me to imagine they might have looked at this information and said let's give them a dose of their own medicine here. and the goals for doing that might have been simple retrob- o retrobution. perhaps we can reach agreement on cyber treaties this way. the things they talked about wanting to do in the past. i am not sure, necessarily, you have to go all the way to that very stark judgment of attempting to undermine the liberal democratic order internationally although that is a plausible explanation of intent. one final thing on this question
of intentions. this is something that is at the root of policy disputes. different perceptions of foreign actors. it is very much at the heart of current controversies about russia right now. what i would argue is this is something we really need a genuine national discussion about. i bring about this by proxy, by talking about russian cyber operations in the election is really not getting at the heart of the matter. as we consider where we have going to go in our dealings with russia we really need to be talking very candidally about what is driving russian ambitions. are they in fact as stark as undermining u.s. democracy and the liberal democratic order? are they somewhat less than that?
because this is something we need to get right. it has enormous implications for our policies toward russia. i think it really needs to be addressed directly and candidally. >> i have question before we move forward. what happened in russia over the last several weeks related to this discussion it says fsb, for cyber computer and nen a couple days ago they arrested number one in the division. then they have arrested somebody outside the government about this kind of matters but it is considered post-kbg contractor.
the russians didn't make public announcements but the information in the media said the officials are being investigated for treason. this is somehow connected to this whole scandal. do you know anything about that? >> i am aware of the publication about this. a couple of points and reaction. it is tempting to look at this and connect dots and say the u.s. intelligence committee accuses of interference and russia realizes this and arrests officials in this specific area. that may be true. this may be connected.
a couple things about the press report caused me to stand out. in commenting on this, he said the arrest was based on activities that the official engaged in prior to joining the labs. he apparently joined the operation in 2012. if we accept that as true, what they said was this was for something that occurred almost five years prior to this. it made be wonder when that individual worked for the russian government. i suspect what we are really talking about is probably
related to corruption and not to interference in the u.s.' election but we will have to see. >> thank you very much. paul? >> okay. i am going to talk a little bit about our policy responses for a few minutes and then maybe say a word or two about the political climate here in washington. as we think about policy responses i think we have to ask ourselves three questions. whau are woe responding to? what are we trying to accomplish through our response and what are the costs and benefits of particular courses of action. in this case, i think we have come to, i think, a fair conclusion that russia was interfering in our elections.
we don't have a full understanding of the actions that russia took. certainly relatively little of this has made it into the public domain. to my mind, accept one is investigating the whole issue very thoroughly and trying to develop a much better understanding of what happened including both what russia did and what we think they were hoping to achieve. as we are doing that, i think we also mead to place our thinking about this incident in the
context of the u.s.-russia relationship which is a 25-year-old relationship. it didn't start with hacking into the election computers or getting into the dnc or do the other things we are talking about. it started 35 years ago and has done through a long, complex and mutually frustrating history. we arrived at a particular point last year when many of these things took place and i think we need to think about what led up to that. second question, you know, what is our objective in responding one side of objectives and that
is we want to punish russia or discourage or deter russia from conducting this kind of activity in the future. from that point of view, i think what the obama administration did in december is a little bit puzzling. this responded to russian treatment to american diplomats in moscow than to a response for this matter. they sanctioned officials and by that i mean putting thep on a list of people that can't get american visas and are subject to having their assets in the
united states seized and i wonder how many gru or fsb officials have significant russian intelligence. i wonder how many of these people have significant assets in the united states. and then they shutdown these two creational facilities as described. one in new york and one in maryland where russian diplomats would go to get away from washington, d.c. or new york or whatever. maybe they had intelligence gathering capabilities there but i expect that that action was rather limited impact on russia's intelligence services and probably its greatest impact was creating a lot of angry
russian diplomates. i don't have a problem with making russian diplomats angry. is that really the objective of u.s. policy and should it be an objective in u.s. policy in this case? that kind of leads me to a couple other questions. one question is if the previous administration really had solid evidence that russia had engaged in extremely serious conduct that threatened the integrity of our election why didn't they do more and why didn't they do it sooner? conversely, if they couldn't really come to that conclusion and didn't have that evidence
why was there this rushed process of putting out the document that george described and this kind of effort to impose what i would consider basically symbolic punishment on russia just three weeks before a new administration would come into office and would be able to take a look at that issue in a very deliberate way together with the congress and to respond. respond appropriately. i am sure there were a variety of different factors in the prior administration's decision making on that issue. but it is very difficult to exclude politics as one of those factors. i think it is very difficult to exclude that.
then, you know, this leads to the third question about cost and benefits. obama officials have who have been quoted in the press on this, some by name but not most, said more than once they were concerned about russia's potential retaliation and specifically concerned about retaliation before the election and the consequences that might have. there was also a concern expressed that the united states could be disproportionally vulnerable and there was a certain caution. i think those are valid things. we an always need to think about potential cost when maintaining
policy. there was an explicit but the logic and approach by nbc news which said multiple high level government officials saying the administration not to do more was based on really three things. we didn't want to look like we were interfering in the election, we thought hillary clinton was going to win anyway, and therefore it wasn't really worth it. that according to nbc attributed to multiple high level government officials. that gives us a little window into the decision making process on that issue.
i am not sure i understand some of their concern and factors in that decision making process i am not sure that is necessarily the way we would want our government to go about thinking about an issue that is serious like that. i think moving forward, i see two different risks that we really have to navigate in between. one is having a thorough investigati investigation, discovering what happened and failing to response in an adequate way to whatever possible attributing motives and
understanding other things like this to russian decision making and responding on the basis when actually the evidence for that may be less persuasive than meets the eye. then i think there is a question of proportionality and what i mean by that is i think we need to separate out some of these different activities and think of them discreetly. if russia hacked into election computers and was changing votes when the former president of the yoouunited states there there w very little evidence anything like that had happened. that would certainly be a very serious and direct intervention in the american electoral process.
but the outcoming instruction pretty much said that didn't happen -- outgoing. hacking into the dmc servers and this exposing that information which i guess i would call basically an effort to influence american public opinion is a little bit different from hacking into election computers and trying to change votes. we have senior officials saying they don't think russia's behavior changed the outcome of the election which is something else we should bear in mind when thinking about our response. finally there is this question
of russia's propaganda channel, rt, which was somewhat bizarrely included in the intelligence community's public report on this issue. rt is a russian propaganda channel and i think openly a russian propaganda channel. but what is the appropriate response of the united states' government to stories that appear on rt and is that something that requires separate and special action by the government of the united states beyond much of what the united states routinely does in its own government-led broadcasting and information efforts which we
call public diplomacy. that is a third and final one. the last thing i want to say is to talk a little bit about our political climate. i will really quite worried about the political climate surrou surrounding russia and the u.s.-russia relationship in the united states. i think we have reached a level of discourse and a low level of discourse that we really have not seen since the mccarthy period in the united states. we have people running around looking for russian sympathizers in the united states here and there. and there is what looks like to me a version of six degrees of separation from vladimer putin in which anybody who has had
contact with the russian government official, or traveled to russia or met a russian business person, or anything like that is somehow suspect and this gets put into things that people write or things that people say in other formats. i think it has a chilling effect on our ability to have the conversation about russian policy we need to have. i think in some ways actually that is more dangerous to our democracy and i worry about it a great deal. dimitri knows i am a great fan
people who engage in this rhetoric to shutdown discussion or looking for kremlin sympathizers i think they should really reflect a little bit on where that ultimately leads. i don't think it leads to a good place for any of us. and to state it in perhaps its most pointed way and i will be deliberately controversial here because i want to make an important point if you take this approach and if you believe that vladimer putin is trying to undermine american democracy then anyone who questions the leg legitmacy of the election that
just happened is doing putin's work. i don't think that is the kind of dialogue that we want or need in the united states. and i hope that, as we talk further as a country about this issue, we will be able to move beyond that. >> based on one other thing, not only in the bush administration but as a member in the '90s, you support foundations that were promoting democracy of russia. when we were making, we i mean collectively in the united states, the u.s.' congress, when we are making this major drastic efforts to promote democracy in
i think there is no question the united states government put its finger on the scale in russia's election in 1996 and many russians saw that, recognized it and profoundly resented it. >> thank you very much. we will note questions and commen comments, and c-span is covering the event so i would ask everyone speaking introduce themselves. >> mike from the los angeles time. question for paul saunders. do you expect at all that if there was a rush to judgment by the intelligence community at the end of the obama administration it was in some sense to reempt what they feared
might be from the intelligence agency to start the conclusion that russia was involved with interfering with the election? >> i think it is quite clear they had that fear. how justified that fear was i cannot say. i don't have access to that kind of information about the internal deliberations. i think however that betrays a very fundamental lack of constitution. we had a congress, a media, a civil society, and the idea that kind of everything depended on
this what i view as a hasty effort -- i have a problem with that. >> grim allyson. excellent presentations and george, especially, thank you for a great article. as a professor, i like you are trying to explore alternative hypotheses and look at the efrd to how you can con tort things. with respect to the appendix and comp comp compromising information on trump. so the question is if you were doing your intelligence analysis on that what was the intent? >> so i think the facts are that as part of the opposition for
whatever the republican opponents and then the clinton campaign a political consultant services collecting what is called opposition research and campaigns. secondly, the campaigns were not able to confirm any of this so they are saying the report and then pedaled the same reports and newspapers including the post, the times, and several othe others. third, i don't know what the intent of the post or the times was for the objective reader.
they would be interested in this information but only if they had some degree of conformation and nobody was able to get it and numbered published this. i have an argument with my colleagues about this. this gives me more respect for the press looking for a second source because they couldn't get it easily. so then finally, a two-page summary of 35 pages of collections was attached to the report that was then briefed. ....
i think it was pretty obvious. i mean, this kind of information was out in june. i was not aware of it. don't think anybody in the congress was at that particular time. i think allegedly put it out just before the election. i think as you described it, it's trash, and the question was, quite frankly -- what we had one of the many briefings that was going on, why on earth this was attached to the 19-page report with regard to this whole matter, the answer walk bass, we thought he ought to know, with
regards to briefing the president-elect. i find that rather ridiculous. anytime you say that, even if it's in a classified briefing, with members of congress, the house, elites, it just does. as a former chairman of the intel committee and during the wm d-days i know that -- highly disturbing to me with regards to highest classified information we had and that we would find a leak. that did not happen during the first year of our inquiry. when we found out that saddam didn't have the wmd bit that has carried over and gets into a lot of partisanship, unfortunately, even in the intelligence committees today. so if you say that, obviously it then gets out in press, and even
though the newspapers follow the coon's of journalism, all of that advice and coot now verify and it did not credit, but they certainly could print what people said back. sort of an echo effect. and i think the response was certainly unfortunate because i just didn't add up, except for a political purpose. hopefully now with mike pompeii woe the head of the cia we can get answers. >> thank you various -- thank you various -- thank you. >> step one is a thorough
investigation of what russia did hope ago achieve. i'd like to ask you both to take that further. we know that there is the senate intelligence committee investigation that has begun, bipartisan investigation, so far has we have beenible to establish there remains an open fbi investigation and apparently other intelligence investigations continue into these matters. so, the questions i'd like both of you to address, are these investigations appropriate, should they be augmented? are they too much in your view? are they like the to arrive at answers you think essential ones that the country needs and if not, how should we seek those answers?
and then third, perhaps most important, what would be appropriate public response, your response if there was some effort either by the justice department to stop the fbi investigation or an effort by the leadership in congress to stop the senate intelligence committee investigation? how should we responsibility to that? -- pond to -- respond to that. >> well, i think at the need a serious and thorough expression think we do. i don't think it's going to be a serious process if it becomes a political process. and to avoid it becoming a political process, you know, as far as the congress is concerned, i think that the intelligence committee is
probably the best place to do that. that's an appropriate venue for something like that. and perhaps less political approach that congress could take. it's appropriate for the fbi for to investigation and for others to investigate. i would not really advise efforts to curtail investigations like that. i think this is an issue where we need to get to the bottom of what happened and establish the facts. but i also think we need to do it fairly and we have a political climate now inside the beltway where it is my impression that it's not easy for some people to approach questions like this in an
objective way. that worries me. >> i would agree with all of that. will add also that i think it would make sense in this particular case in conducting these investigations to broaden them. russia is not the only country with the capability or potential motivation of messing with our elects. there are a lot of actors out there in the world that can do this sort of thing, and i think we need to look into that as well, and to devote a serious effort to try to protect our infrastructure, our electoral systems from vulnerability to this sort of thing. that has to do with a lot more than just russia itself. the second bit of broadening has to do with the intentions that russia has toward the united states and toward the world. i think that's something we need to think very seriously about
and to debate seriously, unless we do that sort of thing i think we'll be continuing to experience the failures, the disappoints and surprises that have attended our regulars with russia for the last two-1/2 decades. >> let me just add perhaps one thing. i agree with george, actually in way the has described broadening, but i think we also need to be narrow in one sense if we have any hope of doing this in a serious way. by that i mean we should be investigating russia's conduct. if we start trying to have a discussion about what impact did this have on our electoral system, on how someone voted somewhere or something like
that, then i think any hope of an objective and useful policy relevant investigation will good out the window. >> i will slightly disagree with me colleague. i think that we should have a very broad and comprehensive investigation. it should be focused on the 2016 election. and we should not try to investigate the -- whatever else they were doing at some other time or for some other purposes. when talking about this election, let's face it, if i understood senator roberts correctly, there is an implication that the way that the investigation started, during the obama administration, had a certain limitation. i happen to believe this definitely was the case. i think that the investigation
so far was remarkably one-sided. we have to investigate russian -- without any attempt by the trump administration to close certain avenues of investigation. it should be honest and professional and nonpartisan but the american people want to know what the democrats were doing at this time. what was their foreign connections and how were those foreign connections could be exploited. i would be turkly -- turkly interested to know what happened with paul manafort, who was running president trump's campaign, when suddenly the most sensitive movement of the electoral system, ukrainian -- a certain relation with evidence of mr. manafort involvement with some ukraine politicians and no
hard evidence. allegedly he got some money from the politician. was an a consultant and was entitledded to do things like that provide he was reporting the income, if there was income, but i said from several ukraine politicians, basically support tv of the current -- support tough of the current government and there was a disturbing combination of some elements of the obama administration, including some elements of the state attend and the ukraine government which was -- russian officials were to donald trump. i think hawse -- has to bed and better in other words and in
russian case, that has to be announced loudly and clearly. but we need to look into that because it, among other things, explain overall context of that political complaint. >> thank you. i'd like to ask george maybe to develop more something he alluded to but didn't discuss in detail, particularly given the background in the intelligence community. that the distinction between cyber espionage, hacking, which russias are active, and leaking. we tend to assume that one is the other. i'm on record as condemning julian assange but i can't disaggrieve witness stakes. that the 14-year-old could have hacked dny us including john
o'testa -- podesta's e-mail can't. but i was for a number of years participant in a ctc sponsored cyber security exercise, which demonstrate, among other things, the incredible vulnerability of our society to cyber hacking some -- nonheadded by 14-year-oldded about the extraordinary openness of our society, corporate, private, institutional, government, to almost anyone with a skill set in this area. why is it that we are assuming that this was necessarily any government, let alone the russian government? if you get into this, i could name you a dozen nonstate actors who had as much into interest in
trying to affect the election as mouse score pyongyang or tehran or paris. we made some assumptions that need to be investigated rigorously. i'm nat saying the russias were -- we know that it were from their own public statement but theirs a big difference between cyber espionage and giving that material to julian assange and wikileaks. >> think you have to be privilege very to conversations inside the government to answer that question. but i very much agree there are lot of plausible explanations for what might have occurred here. all of them should be investigated. in doing that i think what we
really need to focussen or bits of evidence that only are consistent with one explanation and this is unusual in the world of intelligence most inflammation you get is consistent with multiple explanations simultaneously. what you really can looring for are think that -- really looking for are things that can rule things out. activists, could be do have done this bathed on the public domain information we have here is quite true. >> hi. i want to follow up on several of the questions. in regards to both of the statements. it seems to me -- i agree with you that the reports, the i.t. report, the one that was made
public, has some very specific, very serious conclusions based on at least what was made public, very little evidence. and it would seem to me that if that is true, and there's not a whole lot more that anyway know that we don't know, that what both of you are saying is that the intelligence community learned absolutely nothing from the wmd situation, which was precisely what you just said, which is taking a number of things that could have various conclusions and in fact pushing yourself into one conclusion. and that would seem to me to be almost a more serious charge than what we're talking about with the russians. to say that the intelligence community made no progress at all because it was either politically influenced or it didn't do its job very well. it was incompetent. and i wonder if you can talk
about the implications of some of the questions that you have raised about the intelligence community, because to have a document come out that is signed off on by the entire intelligence community, and then to really talk about it in the way that you and many others have just talked about it, is a pretty big deal. >> can i say something? thank you. my neighbor here. we did learn a great deal after the wmd situation, part of it was that we had a worldwide intelligence failure. it was an assumption failure. interestingly enough, most of intelligence community was firmly behind the -- our
conclusion -- the product of the nie conclusions, i.e. saddam had weapons of mass destruction. as we found out later he thought he had them. nobody ever told him he didn't. one revolutionary guard thought one had and it vice versa. i got a lot of flak with regards to what we concluded but with the implosion -- at that time there were 15 -- i think we have 17 now -- somebody can correct me on that -- intelligence community, but there were several that didn't add up and that means you better have everybody in on the analytical
reporting. in other words, full intelligence reporting. don't think that happened in this case. i think there four or five major players, but the wmd assumption failure worldwide, there was a lot of -- going on, an awful lot of efforts to take down the silos of information and the lack of sharing, and we now have the national intelligence counterterrorism site. the department of homeland security. not sure that was the best idea but we have that. and a lot of effort was made to take down these silos. then again, if you have something like this that pops up out of the woodwork, what on opposition research has been pointed out, it's a little
different ball game, but fewer or five major players here. i would be interesting to get the full compliment of all of the intelligence agency before something like this could happen. i support the senate intelligence committee's evidents. there will be no attempt by the majority party, by run, to stop that. want to get to bottom of it as the fbi -- that's their business but we will follow up on this, and richard burr is the chairman. i have every confidence that we will work, and i think we'll work in a bipartisan way, hopefully -- not quite past the election yet but we're getting there. >> a couple of quick comments on this. first of all, i don't think that we can conclude in this case that the intelligence community has failed to learn the lessons from iraq wmd. as i said my presentation, it's quite possible they have conclusive evidence that is
classified behind the jump and we went dough notice -- behind he judgments and we don't know it. i also state very serious efforts have been made at learning lessons and applying those lessons from failure's the past. these are hard things to do. the kinds of cognitive biases that underpain failure is hard to correct for. is not something where you simply diagnose the problem, fix and it everything is better. it's going to be a long-term and constant struggle, i think to improve gradually over time the performance of the intelligence community. then one last thing. this particular topic cyber operation is a very tough one for intelligence organizations
because it cuts acrosser and teeter. you have you tech neckaller ands, ones ones and zeros peoplt understand malware and compiling code and command and control systems, et cetera, et cetera. on the other hand you have your area experts, liberal arts majors, understanding the cultures and lange and politics. those two speak different languages and to do sound analysis on this kind of subject you have to bring them together and have them work together harmoniously. that's not easy to do so i'm very sympathetic to efforts on this area.
>> our president is going to talk to president putin tomorrow there there are rumors on twitter and whatnot that president trump is considering lifting sanctions on russia ewan unilaterally. do you think that's a good idea for him to do this without any concessions from russia, on ukrainian and what would that do to the current situation. >> it think it's a bad idea. almost as bad as an idea of some senate to have a congressional resolution which would deprive president trump the opportunity to lift obama's executive action. think if you lift sanctions on russia -- would be difficult to
explain to congress and to explain to our ally us. at this point our relationship is so great we should be making unilateral -- the idea that the congress would deprive the newly elected president of the united states of his right to lift obama's executive orders, that certainly would be not good for trump's credibility in general, and for his ability to renegotiate with putin in particular. if he is going too negotiate with putin, let's say on syria, on refugees, on ukraine, restoring ukraine sovereignty. if putin knows that president trump could not unilaterally decide on obama's sanctions i think it would not be good for american negotiating position.
>> i certainly agree with that. i wouldn't support it either for the reasons that dimitri described out. relationship isn't at a place yet where it would make sense to take any kind of action like that and i also agree with actually the further point. it would not be constructive for the congress, within a week of the president of the united states being inaugurated, to start trying to impose all kinds of constraints. i think that would provoke a -- an even more and divisive political environment and even more fractured political system. there's no way it would be constrained to that one --
limited to that one issue. so, i think that this is a good case for mutual restraint. >> senator, could you indicate what you think about it? >> no. i would just say in general that coming back from philadelphia, the main topic was to be able to replace, and what is that, and national security behind that and how on earth we adhere to our present limitations and do what we need to do on behalf of the military there was also considerable talk about the lack of a -- for lack of a better word, robust or thoughtful strategy with regards to cyber, and everybody has that in their laundry list of things we should be doing. not many of us can figure out
what we should be dog but this is a multi facetted issue that goes over several agencies. but that's is at the top of a lot of things we're talking. just in concern in terms of cyber security, this particular issue probably triggered that to some degree in a greater light that win we previously considering. >> could i comment on that? i think one of the big dangers we're facing right now in u.s.-russian relations is expectations in moscow about where the u.s. might be going in its policies, and my sense is that the russians believe that the united states is now coming to its senses, having spent a couple decades and a half believing it can remake the world in its own democratic image, and that we will simply
stop doing doing things the russians have found oxable and russia doesn't need to do anything other than sit back and watch us change. i think that is a misperception on their part, number one. and it won't work over time. the united states shouldn't encourage that by starting out this new administration by taking some unilateral steps that have not been reciprocated on moscow's part. we'll find offerses in a very bad dynamic if we do that. >> thank you. thank you, dimitri, and thank you for the presentations. my question is for george and pushes a little further on the area that karen deyoung brought up, but also takes us back to the excellent question which is still on the floor, and questions about the dossier and
all of that. i want to ask you to give us your judgment as an intelligence professional how this statement by the intelligence community, with all of the caveats and the warnings you put in all of the criticisms you put in -- how could this have happened? >> well, i really don't know the answer to that. think the simplest explanation is they have some very conclusive classified evidence which has driven their judgment. that's the easiest thing to do. i am a little skeptical that's the case. why is that? a couple of things. one, in the intelligence community report itself, there's an interesting caveat that nsa has only moderate content in one of the report's significant judgments. that's a red flag. and then the -- >> the national security agency.
>> yes, the national security agency. that suggests to me that the kind of evidence that they've got in the classified world is not all that conclusive. so that's number one. the second thing is, given the political atmosphere we're experiencing now in washington, which i think paul is very accurately described and the degree we're age to keep these sorts of things secret, i'm suspicious that if we really had that kind of evidence in the classified world, that we would know that, either directly or indirectly in public domain. so, i suspect we really don't have that kind of conclusive evidence in the classified world. now, how did we end up with this report? a lot of potential explanations. i mentioned earlier the bias tendencies we all share. might explain a lot of this.
the pressure that can occur bureaucrat include in organizationally, the time deadlines that are underway, the separation of sets of expertise within the community, all of that may have had a role to play in all of this. i'm speculating. >> next question. >> yes, the dossier. i thought i got a reprieve there from senator roberts. apparently not. on at the dossier, i think there are a couple of questions here, one is how do you actually vet something like this? hard thing to do. cia would typically approach this by looking at the sourcing and subsourcing very critically. impossible to do in this case. the next case would be looking for facts that are reported in this that you can verify. what so and so in a particular place at a certain time. that's verifiable and on goals
you so far in investigation this voracity of the claim is in this report which i have not actually seen, by the way. there is a couple of things that make me skeptical about the information that is in it, though. one, the target, the source of some of these claims is supposedly the russian presidential administration. that is a very hard intelligence target. intelligence organizations around the world devote themselves to try to penetrate that target. very hard to do. we're led to believe that a private individual running a security firm, hired to dig up dirt is able to penetrate the hard target using his own sources in maybe so. i'm skeptical. the second thing to note here, moscow, for anybody that has been there is good at nothing
beyond generating lots and lots of rumors. a lot of these rumors are generated precisely because the people in these closed circles of decisionmaking are not very transparent about what i going on and the absence of hard information people tend to gossip a lot. really easy to tap into that gossip network. now, now the question is, gee, am i getting rumyear or am i getting -- rumor or getting solid information here? we have no basis for judge, but i suspect the most likely explanation is somebody that tapped into the very active moscow rumor mill and circulated what is out there on that. >> as you may know, the "wall street journal" identified a person who was one of the main sources, if not the main source, a former russian citizen --
citizen of the united states, and a kind of business promotion organization with a huge budget of $50,000 a year. so, happens that i was on the russian tv, one of the live talk shows, with that gentleman. they were interviewing him from atlanta. the he was claim he was hiding from everyone because he was afraid for his life. the gentleman explained he had absolutely nothing too do with of this worth whatsoever, this was done to undermine our president, mr. trump. that he was an early trump supporter. that, no, he did not meet trump more than once. in other reports it was suggested that he was telling people how close hi was to trump, he how he played around in organizing trump's trip to russian in 2007.
trump was not in russia in 200 and how he was particularly close to trump's lawyer who he never met that particular gentleman. sounds to me is a if you're dealing with somebody who clearly was talking to somebody, who wanted to promote himself, and to portray him as an insider. he did not know that people he was talking to would take it literally and that particularly it would ever -- something like this would ever find itself on the desk of the president of the united states. david johnson, ambassador johnson. >> yes. when you were speaking, you expressed concerns about the wider issue here of getting -- call it red scare but close to using that language. notice our topic here is moscow's actions and america's responses. where are the digits sneer should we just be concerned about the theft and then
subsequent publication of dat or should we be concerned about the second piece since we don't engage in prior restrain should we be concerned about i.t. or france 24? in a post citizens united environment, doesn't everybody get a kick at the can here and is this just a fact of life and we would should be willing and able to accept and public the participation of other countries, even if they're financed by their government to actively try to influence our elections. >> i certainly would not accept other countries, like i said, trying hack into our election system and change people's votes. once you start talking about foreign efforts to influence public opinion in the united states, -- i don't even know how
you deal with something like that. certainly we're trying to influence public opinion in a number of other countries. we try especially hard to do that in countries that we view as having strategic importance to the foreign policy of the united states itch think it's reasonable to expect that other governments would take the same approach. now, we could decide that we want to ban rt in the united states, for example. i'm not sure what that would really accomplish because it's not just a question of what people can get on their cable tv or actually over the air. they also broadcast over the air. but the internet, can we going
to start police what americans can see on the internet. don't see a way to dress that problem other than having our own kind of robust kind of media and information environment and clash of ideas and people being responsible about checking sources of information, and facebook is trying to verify in some way or certify things that people put on facebook. there's certain things you can do. we should try to do those things, but i don't really see how we can close off the united states from these other sources of information or those perspectives and i don't really see it as consistent with our values.
>> let me make -- some discussion was obviously different and been covered by the president and he participants. think that the consensus, at least, at this table, was that this is a real serious matter; that there is serious and real evidence of russian interference in the american electoral process. there's also real evidence that this was politics as usual, and that unfortunately that serious matter was exploited for political purposes. i take both parts seriously. i think mr. putin should be quite pleads with the outcome if if prefer trumping her got mr. trump. and if he wanted to disrupt our elections, at least creating an element of illegitimatey about
our political process and the outcome, when you have somebody like congressman lewis portrayed as great american icon, he questioning legitimacy of the election, base owned that kind of report, those kind of allegations, more than 60 members of congress, democrats, refusing to be present at the inauguration, that's extremely serious. that's why i very much hope that senator roberts said we will have comprehensive, serious, nonpolitical investigation, conducted both bill the fbi, by congressional bodies and i hope that our media will also start looking at this phenomenon, more objectivetively and more comprehensively than he have seen so far. the so much and thank you c-span for covering this event. [applause]
[inaudible conversations] >> today, the atlantic council takes a look at the iran nutria -- the iran nuclear agreement. include as will keynote address from chris murphy, a member of the senate foreign relations committee. that is live at noon eastern on c-span three. you can also watch online at c-span.org or listen on the c-span radio at. also, the washington institute
for near east policy hosts a discussion on u.s.-israel relations with the israeli cabinet minister and the former israeli ambassador. at 12:30 p.m.rway eastern. >> c-span, or history unfolds daily. it was created as a public service for the cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite television provider. >> coming up next, q and a with a former cia analyst, john nixon. at 7:00, we open our phone lines and take a look at today's headlines on "washington journal." ♪ >> this week on "q&a," cia analyst john nixon. he discusses his book