U.S. Republican and Democratic senators on Sunday called for a special bipartisan panel to investigate cyberattacks against the United States by foreign countries with a focus on Russia's alleged efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election.
Charles Schumer, who will be the Senate Democratic leader in the new U.S. Congress in January, and John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said separately on Sunday that a select committee was needed to ensure effective congressional focus on the hacking of Democratic Party emails during the campaign.
"The fact that they're hacking our political system and trying to influence the outcome, as it seems to be, that is serious, serious stuff," Schumer of New York told a news conference in New York. He said the panel should also examine hacking by other countries including China and Iran.
Two other senators, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island, joined Schumer and McCain of Arizona in sending a letter to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell requesting the panel, Schumer said. The letter read:
Dear Leader McConnell:
For years, foreign adversaries have directed cyberattacks at America's physical, economic, and military infrastructure, while stealing our intellectual property. Now our democratic institutions and processes have been targeted. Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American. Cybersecurity is the ultimate cross-jurisdictional challenge, and we must take a comprehensive approach to meet this challenge effectively. We therefore would ask for your support in establishing a temporary Select Committee on Cyber.
The Congress's oversight committees have worked diligently to address the complex challenge of cybersecurity, but recent events show that more must be done. Cyber cuts across and involves multiple committees of jurisdiction, including the Committees on Intelligence, Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Commerce, Judiciary, and Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Despite the good work that these and other committees have done on their own, cyber is the rare kind of all-encompassing challenge for which the Congress's jurisdictional boundaries are an impediment to sufficient oversight and legislative action. Only a select committee that is time-limited, cross-jurisdictional, and purpose-driven can address the challenge of cyber.
Such a select committee must focus on two critical tasks. First, it must conduct a comprehensive investigation of Russian interference in our recent elections and inform the public as much as possible, while protecting classified information, about the facts of the case and what actions could reasonably have been taken across the federal government to deter or defend against this interference. Second, and more broadly, a select committee must tackle the issue of cyber in its entirety and develop comprehensive recommendations and, as necessary, new legislation to modernize our nation's laws, governmental organization, and related practices to meet this challenge. Upon completion of these tasks, this select committee could be disestablished.
We share your respect for, and deference to, the regular order of the Senate, and we recognize that this is an extraordinary request. However, we believe it is justified by the extraordinary scope and scale of the cyber problem. Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to address this unique challenge. We look forward to working with you on this matter as the Senate works through the organizing resolution for the 115th Congress.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia tried to influence the election by hacking individuals and institutions, including Democratic Party bodies.