Biden Says Pentagon 'Won't Even Brief Us on Many Things' During Presidential Transition
President-elect Joe Biden has blown the Trump administration's response to a massive month-long cyberattack that hit multiple government agencies, saying he sees no evidence that the situation is under control.
"The Department of Defense won't even tell us about a lot of things," said Biden on Tuesday, "so I don't know anything that suggests it's under control."
Biden referred to questions about ongoing cybersecurity threats following an alleged Russian-led attack on several government agencies and private companies. He stopped calling the attack an act of war, but said the risks remained serious.
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"The question of the damage caused has yet to be clarified," he said. "We have to look closely at the nature of the violations, how extensive they are."
Experts said it could take months to determine exactly which systems and information hackers could breach. President Donald Trump downplayed the threat over the weekend, saying "everything is well under control" and suggested that China may be more responsible than Russia.
That was after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview that the attack was "fairly clearly" carried out by Russia.
Biden's comments on the lack of Pentagon briefings re-raise questions about the Department of Defense's cooperation in the presidential transition. Axios reported last week that Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller suddenly broke off meetings with the Biden team, "which shocked officials across the Department of Defense."
Miller denied the claims in a lengthy statement Friday, saying he was still committed to a full and transparent transition.
"This is what our nation expects and the DoD will deliver as it always is," the statement read.
Biden, whose victory was officially announced by the electoral college last week, said the Trump administration had failed to prioritize cybersecurity. He vowed retaliation for the cyberattack but declined to say what that response might mean.
"I promise you there will be an answer," said Biden, adding that he will work with allies to establish "traffic rules" that apply to cyber activities so that wrongdoers can be held accountable when those norms are violated.
Securing the country's networks will be an "overwhelming focus" for his administration, he said.
"Securing our cyberspace can literally cost billions of dollars. It can take a long time to get there," said Biden. "... I'll just do whatever has to be done."
- Gina Harkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.
Related: Trump says cyberattack is "under control", plays down Russian role
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