U.S. not coordinating against Russian cyber threat: top general

The top U.S. general in Europe said on Thursday that the U.S. government did not have an effective unified approach to deal with Russia’s cyber threat.

FILE PHOTO – Commander of the U.S. European Command Curtis M. Scaparrotti speaks during his presentation for Finnish National Defence Course Association in Helsinki, Finland August 9, 2017. Lehtikuva/Mikko Stig via REUTERS

U.S. officials have warned repeatedly that Russia is trying to interfere in the 2018 mid-term U.S. elections by hacking or using social media to spread propaganda and misleading reports, much as it did during the 2016 presidential race.

Lawmakers, particularly Democrats, have accused the Trump administration of doing too little to combat hacking. Some lawmakers have stressed the need for a “whole of government approach.”

“I don’t believe there is an effective unification across the interagency, with the energy and the focus that we could attain,” U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, who is also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Scaparrotti had been asked by Senator Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the committee, whether he believed the different parts of the government had a coordinated effort to confront Russia’s cyber threat.

Scaparrotti told lawmakers that the United States’ understanding of Russian cyber infrastructure was not satisfactory.

“We’re getting a better understanding of it, (but) I would not characterize it as a good picture at this point, not satisfactory to me,” he said.

U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia sought to influence the 2016 presidential election to boost Trump, the Republican candidate. The finding has shadowed his 14 months in the White House amid multiple congressional investigations and a probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Moscow denies meddling. Trump has denied collusion between his associates and Russia.

When asked whether Russia was directly targeting the United States with cyber and information warfare, Scaparrotti said he had seen Russian activity related to infrastructure within the United States, but did not provide more details.

The top U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s administration is “actively engaged” in countering Russian efforts to influence the November elections, even as he warned of Moscow’s continuing “malign activities.”

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Alistair Bell