“…for the President to outright reject everything but war is outrageous to me, and I do hope that you are able to better advise him that he needs to be careful with his language because that seems to be the rhetoric we are hearing out there is that we either go to war or we accept this deal and I reject that premise.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) pressed for answers and clarification within the nuclear agreement with Iran at today’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing entitled, “Impacts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on U.S. Interests and the Military Balance in the Middle East.”
Among her questions, Senator Ernst asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey whether he advised President Obama that the U.S. must either accept the Iran nuclear deal or go to war. General Dempsey disclosed that “at no time did that come up in our conversation nor did I make that comment.” To which, Ernst, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, responded that “…for the President to outright reject everything but war is outrageous to me, and I do hope that you are able to better advise him that he needs to be careful with his language because that seems to be the rhetoric we are hearing out there is that we either go to war or we accept this deal and I reject that premise.”
Senator Ernst voiced concerns regarding potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in relation to our country’s own inability to protect U.S. networks. Senator Ernst pointed to the recent cyber-attack on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and successful cyber-attacks by Iran on U.S. government employees working in nonproliferation, a number of U.S. banks, and a U.S. Marine Corps network. The Iowa Senator highlighted the critical need for the Administration to be able to ensure IAEA can protect technology and equipment designed to detect potential breaches of the nuclear agreement by Iran: “I am very concerned regarding the government's ability to detect, deter and defeat cyberattacks on our government, particularly by China, Russia and Iran… It is vital IAEA has a lock-tight ability to protect its equipment and technology vital to ensuring effective monitoring of Iranian facilities under this agreement against cyberattacks”
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SENATOR ERNST: Mr. Chairman and thank you, colleagues. Gentlemen, thank you for being here today. This will be one of the most significant votes that we will take as Members of Congress moving forward. So I believe it is imperative that we get this right. Not long ago the United States discovered that we had a data breach at OPM. Simple. Data, personnel records had been tapped into, so that just is laying the groundwork of where I am going next. Secretary Carter and Secretary Moniz, I am very concerned regarding the government's ability to detect, deter and defeat cyberattacks on our government, particularly by China, Russia and Iran. With respect to Iran in particular, according to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Iran has conducted cyberattacks on U.S. government officials involved in nuclear nonproliferation, hacking, which compromised the Marine Corps intranet, Sands Las Vegas Casino and attacks against U.S. banks. In relation to the Iran deal these attacks along with recent successful attacks against OPM leads me to have less than full confidence in our own cyber capabilities, let alone the cyber capabilities of the IAEA. It is vital IAEA has a lock-tight ability to protect its equipment and technology vital to ensuring effective monitoring of Iranian facilities under this agreement against cyberattacks. Just simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, Secretary Carter, are you concerned regarding Iran's ability to impact the effectiveness of IAEA monitoring equipment through cyber?
SECRETARY CARTER: I'm sorry. I can't give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to that. I am very concerned about Iranian cyber activity. And you named three countries and I could go on with other ones. This is a big problem. Sadly I share the lack of confidence you have in the adequacy of our defenses, and in the Defense Department you would think with all we have paid attention to protecting our own networks that we would be secure but we're not, and we know that, and it's not just Iran but it's others as well and that's why we are trying to make investments in that area and pull up our socks in the cyber area but I can't reassure you on the cyber.
SENATOR ERNST: I am very concerned about this. Secretary Moniz, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ do you share a concern this could be vulnerable?
SECRETARY MONIZ: I absolutely share a concern but the IAEA has a robust technologies in terms of –
SENATOR ERNST: They are much more advanced than the United States?
SECRETARY MONIZ: I didn't say that, no. Cyber is tough. General Dempsey also mentioned cyber is something that keeps us up all the time, and we have to develop our capabilities.
SENATOR ERNST: Fantastic. I have no confidence that we would not be able to know if there were tampering and involvement going on as we try to monitor the activities or as the IAEA tries to monitor these activities.
SECRETARY MONIZ: The IAEA, Senator, is of course quite aware of this and they do have measures.
SENATOR ERNST: And I hope that they improve those measures. I do believe that we are vulnerable as we have seen with our own infrastructure. And General Dempsey, we have heard some other discussions today about the choices that the President has with this agreement. Now, two weeks ago, many of our news outlets, USA Today and others, had quoted President Obama, “the choice is the Iran nuclear deal or war.” This seems to be a military decision. I understand that you advise the President on these issues. Is that what you have told the President is that we either take this deal or we go to war?
GENERAL DEMPSEY: No, at no time did that come up in our conversation nor did I make that comment.
SENATOR ERNST: Who is advising the President, then, that we must go to war if this deal is not signed?
GENERAL DEMPSEY: I can't answer that. I can tell you that we have a range of options and I always present them.
SENATOR ERNST: And I thank you for that, because I do think and I think it's imperative everybody on the panel understand that there are other options available out there, and a multitude of options. We're taught in the military about DIME, diplomatic options and information operations and military operations and economic types of sanctions and opportunities that we might have. So for the President to outright reject everything but war is outrageous to me, and I do hope that you are able to better advise him that he needs to be careful with his language because that seems to be the rhetoric we are hearing out there is that we either go to war or we accept this deal and I reject that premise.
GENERAL DEMPSEY: As long as we agree that military strikes on a sovereign nation is an act of war, but there are things between here and there.
SENATOR ERNST: Absolutely, I agree General Dempsey. Thank you gentlemen, very much. Thank you Mr. Chair.
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