Mike Pompeo has become the first member of the Trump administration to blame Russia for far-reaching hacks on US government agencies and private companies.
“This was a very significant effort,” said Secretary of State. saying Mark Levin, right-wing radio host, Friday night. “I think it is true that now we can say quite clearly that it was the Russians who participated in this activity.”
On Saturday, Pompeo announced the closure of two US consulates in Russia where activity had already slowed due to Covid-19.
Speaking to Levin, he added: “I’m sure some of them will remain classified. But suffice it to say that there was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code within US government systems. And now systems of private companies and companies and governments around the world are also appearing. “
The Kremlin denies its involvement.
Donald Trump hasn’t addressed cyber attacks, which have sent computer security teams fighting to limit the damage. Critics, including Mitt Romney, the Republican senator from Utah, have pushed for Trump to speak.
Speaking to SiriusXM radio, the former presidential candidate said: “What I find most astonishing is that a cyber attack of this nature is actually the modern equivalent of quasi-Russian bombers that are reportedly flying undetected across the country.
“In this context, not having the White House speaking out aggressively and protesting and taking punitive action is really extraordinary.”
When asked about Romney’s comments, Pompeo said: “I saw this in my time running the world’s top spy service at the CIA. There are a lot of things he would love to say, ‘Wow, I’m going to say that,’ but a wiser course of action to protect the American people is to calmly go about their business and defend freedom. “
Ties between the United States and Russia have been strained over issues ranging from conflicts in Syria and Ukraine to allegations of Russian interference in American politics, specifically in the 2016 election and in favor of Trump, which Moscow also denies.
At an annual press conference on Thursday, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, said he hoped President-elect Joe Biden would help resolve some problems in relations between Moscow and Washington.
The state department said on Saturday that the United States was halting work on two consulates in Russia, citing security concerns at facilities where operations had been reduced due to Covid-19.
In consultation with Ambassador John Sullivan, Pompeo decided to close the consulate in Vladivostok and suspend operations in Yekaterinburg, a representative of the state department told Reuters.
The decision, which is part of “ongoing efforts to ensure the safe operation of the United States diplomatic mission in the Russian Federation,” did not affect Russian consulates in the United States, the statement said, without offering detailed reasons for measure.
When asked this week about Russian reports that the two consulates could be closed, the US embassy in Moscow said it had suspended operations in Vladivostok and reversed operations in Yekaterinburg in March due to the pandemic.
The closures will leave the embassy in Moscow as the last US diplomatic mission in Russia.
It’s unclear if the closings will occur before Jan.20, when Biden takes office.
Speaking to Levin, Pompeo said: “We have many people who want to undermine our way of life, our republic, our basic democratic principles. Russia is certainly on that list … You will see the news of the day regarding its efforts in cyberspace. We have seen this for a long time, using asymmetric capabilities to try to put ourselves in a place where they can impose costs on the United States.
“So yes, Vladimir Putin remains a real risk for those of us who love freedom.”
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