Iran, Cyber, Sequestration & More

Reps. Nunes and Schiff give joint GEOINT 2015 keynote


Will there be more sanctions for Iran, punishments for hackers, continued sequestration?

Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) shed some light on these issues Thursday in a joint keynote address at GEOINT 2015.

Negotiations with Iran on its nuclear capability are ongoing, with a June 30 deadline looming.

Nunes, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), predicted Congress would pass more sanctions if an agreement is not reached.

“I’m not comfortable with where the talks are now,” Nunes said “… My concern would be that if any sanctions are lifted, and we release large amounts of capital to the regime, that could be a potential problem, plus opening the gates for our partners, Europeans and others, to start to trade with Iran. Over the long run, I think that would be detrimental.”

Said Schiff, ranking member of HPSCI, “the Iranians will start to split up their centrifuges again. They’ll go (beyond) the 20 percent enriched uranium they already have, and then we’ll be in a race for time.”

“I think we know enough to set back the programs for a period of years with a military strike,” Schiff continued. “You’re not going to be able to set it back permanently unless you periodically were to engage in a military strike, because Iran still has the knowledge about how to enrich uranium and how to weaponize it.”

The extent of the recent data breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is still being determined, with the estimated number of government personnel records compromised ranging from 4.2 to 18 million. Many parties have labeled the Chinese as responsible, though they also say facts have yet to determine whether their responsibility is irrefutable.

However, the Congressmen agreed the U.S. should demonstrate an appropriate reaction to the cyber attack.

“This is a growing problem, and it leads me to suspect that if you’re a major, or a minor firm right now, particularly in the defense area, but in just about any area, if you haven’t been hacked yet, it’s only because you don’t know you’ve been hacked,” Schiff said.

He added thoughts on whether the U.S. should play more of an offensive role in cyber conflict.

“I think on this playing field, those on the offense have all of the advantage,” Schiff said. “When you’re on defense, you’ve got to protect against any vulnerability. When you’re on offense, you just need to exploit the weakest link.”

Schiff’s congressional district includes Hollywood, and SONY studios was severely impacted by North Korea’s hacking of its computer records.

“We can’t just be on defense,” he said. “We also need to establish a deterrent. I don’t think the North Koreans feel they suffered any repercussions from the attack on SONY. I think that’s going to tell the North Koreans and others that cyber attacks are essentially ‘freebies.’”

Schiff said this underscores the need to take charge of determining clear and appropriate cyber consequences as there are for other domains of war.

“I believe we need to develop the rules of the road—what constitutes an act of what in the cyber world. What constitutes an appropriate response. We’re going to have to let our adversaries know that, when they attack us, that there will be repercussions.”

On sequestration, Nunes said the U.S. needs to find ways to spur economic growth to “three to four percent, if we’re going to grow our way out of this.”

Nunes pointed to the potential need for more “austerity measures” without that growth.

“There are no easy answers,” he said, then added “I feel comfortable where we are in terms of the Intelligence Community’s budget going into next year.”

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