March 30 (UPI) — Multiple experts told the Senate Intelligence Committee at a hearing Thursday that they tend to agree with the U.S. intelligence community’s assertion that Russia’s government played an active role in interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Thursday marked the panel’s first open hearings into the investigation about potential Kremlin efforts on behalf of now-President Donald Trump.
The intelligence community — including the CIA — concluded weeks ago that Moscow was behind concerted efforts to intercede in the presidential election with, at the very least, tacit approval from President Vladimir Putin.
“The have a history of doing this well before this and they find it a successful use of their resources,” Roy Godson, a former consultant for the National Security Council, told the committee. He also told the panel that Moscow likely began laying the groundwork for their interference efforts long before 2016.
“They will be relying on all tools in their toolkit. And information warfare and disinformation will be part of it,” Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said.
Panel members and witnesses spent time during Thursday morning’s hearing talking about whether Moscow hacking into foreign governments constitutes an act of war.
“It’s not kinetic, but its definitely part of the Cold War system we knew,” cybersecurity expert Clinton Watts said, adding that the Russians hit “a gold mine” when they hacked into Democratic National Committee emails last year.
“I think we should be careful of using terms of an ‘act of war,'” Rumer said.
There is currently no formal definition of what types of cyberattacks warrant a military response.
Thursday’s hearing began after the committee’s chair and vice chair, Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Mark Warner, D-Va., again stressed the bipartisan spirit of their investigation, much as they had on Wednesday.
“If we politicize this process, our efforts will likely fail,” Burr said at the start of the hearing.
The panel was set for two hearings on Thursday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It is running concurrently to the House Intelligence Committee’s probe of the same matter.