Former CIA Acting Director John McLaughlin on Thursday evening characterized Russia’s propaganda efforts on Facebook as a cyber 9/11 in an interview with NBC anchor Brian Williams.
A partial transcript follows:
WILLIAMS: I have to ask you, your reaction upon finding out that our director of national intelligence is unaware that an adversary has been invited to Washington, say nothing of—the other of our allies—who have yet to receive there first invitation of this presidency?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well Brain, you know my reaction there, sitting there in the audience today was, you know our government has slipped out of gear. It is not functioning normally. That would not happen, I’ve served seven presidents, that would not happen in any other administration. It shows that the president was not prepared for the Helsinki summit and is now improvising again. Normally, the way this works in a normal government that is in gear is that there would be deputies meeting and principles meetings to prepare for these things The pros and cons of inviting Putin again would be discussed and detailed. People would put their cards on the table, we might go ahead, but with hill knowledge of what we want out of it and with all of the unintended consequences spelled out. Clearly, none of that had happened. It seemed to go from Trump’s head to his thumb and out to the world.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, to your point, that’s why you have a gentleman like Dan Coats on the payroll. Director, I want to share with our audience, we use the phrase cyber hacking, we talk about being vulnerable to an electronic attack and you’re used to this scary line of work, but Director Coats today ran through what we mean when we talk about a cyber 9/11 – a phrase not to be tossed around casually – but for just about a minutes, we’ll give our viewers some idea of what we mean and we’ll talk about it on the other side.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think we’re doing a lot to prevent that kind of cyber 9/11 in the sense of preparing our defenses, on the other hand, this White House, has eliminated the cyber coordinator who would have been the person to organize all of the efforts in the U.S. government. The problem with cyber Brian is that everyone has a piece of it. On the technical side you have the National Security Agency, on the policy said you have the Department of Homeland Security, and so forth and so on. The Defense Department has a role. You need someone to pull all of that together and no one is doing that from the White House angle. I would add this Brian, in a way, we’ve already we’ve already had our cyber 9/11. For me, it’s a cyber 9/11 when 150 [million] Americans have been exposed to Russian propaganda through Facebook, as Facebook has acknowledged. And countless others through Twitter. The problem is, that’s not the kind of cyberattack that is dramatic in the way that the director pointed out.