The director of the National Security Agency and the head of U.S. Cyber Command said he was ready to conduct cyber operations against those attempting to undermine the U.S. midterm elections.
During an August 2 press conference at the White House, Gen. Paul Nakasone said that his organization was providing intelligence, information support and technical expertise to prevent foreign interference in American elections.
But Nakasone declined to answer if he has been authorized to conduct offensive cyber operations in response to Russian meddling.
Nakasone’s statements come as some defense officials have expressed frustration over the Trump administration’s cyber policies.
Presidential approval is required for cyber operations that may have “significant consequences,” according to a policy directive. But Nakaaone and other defense officials have said that offensive cyber operations are classified and are not discussed in public.
Previously, Nakasone had confirmed during a July 21 event that he had set up a special Russia small group, although details are unclear.
The NSA and Cyber Command chief made the comments during a White House press briefing alongside the heads of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Council and the Director of National Intelligence. They presented a united message that Russia is continuing its influence campaign in the United States and the Trump administration is focused on minimizing the impact.
Specifically, the intelligence community is concerned that Russia is attempting to divide the U.S. through hacking, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, said. The upcoming midterm and presidential elections are ripe targets for interference, he said.
The Russians have tried to hack into and steal information from candidates and government officials alike, Coats said. He added there are other counters who are attempting to influence American politics.