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GOP lawmaker on Putin: He's a criminal

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told CNN's Manu Raju that he "wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal," in response to a question about President Trump's congratulatory call to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Posted: Mar 23, 2018 8:43 AM
Updated: Mar 23, 2018 8:43 AM

In the Cold War canon of movies that imagined what World War III would look like, there were armed teenagers in the Rockies, submarines in Cape Cod, and plenty of postapocalyptic grit. Regardless of the scenario, however, Americans always fought back.

Now the Russians really are here, infiltrating every corner of the country, with the signal goal of disrupting the American way of life. And enormous numbers of Americans are not only failing to fight back, they are also unwitting collaborators, -- reading, retweeting, sharing and reacting to Russian propaganda and provocations every day.

Meanwhile, according to Gallup, US public opinion of Russian leader Vladimir Putin improved between 2015 and 2017. Most of that gain was with registered Republicans, quite a turnaround for the party of Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan.

Earlier this month, Russian intrusions took a sinister new turn, with the joint FBI-Department of Homeland Security disclosure that the Russians have been hacking US infrastructure, including the electric grid. If you weren't already worried about Russia, you should be now, and it's past time for the United States to define what a "proportionate response" looks like in these new forms of grayscale warfare (not armed conflict, but not peaceful coexistence, either).

Here's why Americans should be worried. According to the FBI and DHS, the Russians have been stealing information and testing attack scenarios on the structure and operations of the US electric grid, including industrial control and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems. Attacking those systems, particularly in a way that does permanent damage, could lead to a prolonged power outage.

Now imagine your life without electricity. No light, no smartphones, no Internet of Things or things of the internet, no banking, and in many cases, no water or fuel, because those systems often rely on pumps and other electrical equipment. Most US military bases depend on civilian grids, too, and backup generators can only take our increasingly electrified force so far.

It is difficult to judge Russian intent, of course, but history is full of wars where civilian infrastructure was a target, and sometimes even a weapon. From the Spartans' ravaging of Athenian crops in ancient Greece to America's "shock and awe" in Iraq, attacking food, water, transportation and communications has long been a way to cut a military off from its supplies, generate political pressure, and destroy the public morale of an enemy.

In the Digital Age, electricity is the ultimate target (and the Pentagon no doubt knows where all Russia's power plants are, too). What's new, however, is the ability to attack this target without firing a shot or crossing a border, which would be an overt act of war. The Russians proved in Ukraine that they can and will shut down electricity from afar in an undeclared war. It's not easy to do, but Russia also will not be the last country to use or gain that capability.

The United States urgently needs to strengthen our defense of the national grid system. This cannot be just the responsibility of the private sector, for a number of reasons. First, there are more than 8,000 power plants in the country, ranging from large, well-connected investor owned utilities to small, rural co-ops with a fraction of the customer base. There are thousands of companies that own or supply equipment in this complicated mix of wires, metal, and minerals. These businesses are generally optimized for reliability, not security, which makes sense, given that weather, human error, and animals damage grid infrastructure and cause power outages in the United States every day. As one industry executive told me: "We're ready for squirrels, not nation states."

Right now, however, the US government does not have a coherent grid security policy: Even the coverage of the recent alert mentioned DHS, the FBI, CYBERCOM, and the Department of Energy. There are other players in the mix, as well, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. It's urgent to clarify roles and missions, clearly designate who will take the lead, and produce coherent, thorough threat assessments. That also means ensuring the grid security agencies have sufficient staffing, technology, funding and leadership support. We can't expect the FBI to keep us safe from attacks on the homeland, for example, if the commander in chief is constantly undermining the institution itself.

Speaking of the President, it is also vital that he direct the National Command Authority (the defense chain of command, including intelligence and military leaders) to give him options for responding to Russian aggression. This is not just about Russia, either; this is about setting the precedent for how the United States will respond when we are attacked in this new gray era.

It's not just up to the President, though. In those Cold War movies, back in the days when Americans fought back, we also stood together and had as much confidence in the power of our ideas and strength of our economy as we did in our force of arms. Maybe those were just works of fiction, but ultimately, the buck still stops with all of us if we're going to keep the country safe in the Digital Age.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 92100

Reported Deaths: 2037
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26264926
Ramsey10635318
Dakota7280125
Anoka5870132
Stearns386524
Washington365255
Scott248733
Olmsted234627
Nobles194316
Blue Earth16326
Wright15537
St. Louis145138
Carver13757
Clay131640
Rice13118
Mower13085
Sherburne111414
Kandiyohi9552
Winona85518
Lyon6614
Waseca5668
Steele5302
Freeborn5293
Benton5223
Nicollet51516
Watonwan5144
Todd4832
McLeod4702
Chisago4661
Crow Wing46418
Le Sueur4464
Otter Tail4074
Beltrami3885
Martin35710
Goodhue3449
Pine3070
Itasca29914
Polk2944
Douglas2782
Isanti2710
Becker2572
Carlton2461
Cottonwood2190
Unassigned21852
Morrison2161
Pipestone21610
Dodge2140
Chippewa2031
Meeker1892
Sibley1893
Brown1822
Wabasha1800
Yellow Medicine1692
Rock1620
Murray1562
Mille Lacs1533
Redwood1511
Cass1423
Jackson1371
Renville1367
Faribault1320
Swift1231
Houston1170
Koochiching1173
Roseau1170
Kanabec1168
Pennington1151
Fillmore1110
Lincoln1050
Stevens941
Pope900
Hubbard881
Aitkin741
Big Stone730
Wadena670
Grant594
Wilkin583
Lake570
Norman520
Marshall501
Lac qui Parle471
Mahnomen461
Red Lake401
Traverse290
Clearwater260
Lake of the Woods211
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 82537

Reported Deaths: 1289
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15571261
Woodbury517363
Johnson507327
Black Hawk442188
Linn3878109
Story336917
Dubuque298541
Scott287528
Dallas274138
Pottawattamie203338
Buena Vista195912
Marshall176834
Sioux14693
Wapello129657
Webster121314
Clinton109220
Plymouth109120
Muscatine109054
Crawford10425
Cerro Gordo101721
Warren9456
Jasper80232
Des Moines7517
Marion7465
Tama69931
Henry6554
Carroll6505
Lee6137
Wright5701
Dickinson5036
Boone4938
Bremer4757
Washington44911
Louisa42615
Mahaska36819
Delaware3653
Franklin34618
Hamilton3233
Jackson3173
Winneshiek3156
Floyd3103
Clay3094
Benton3021
Hardin2931
Winnebago28413
Lyon2804
Poweshiek2708
Butler2652
Buchanan2621
Clarke2623
Jones2583
Emmet25410
Allamakee2526
Shelby2501
Kossuth2490
Chickasaw2400
Guthrie2406
Clayton2373
Cedar2331
Sac2320
Cherokee2222
Grundy2183
Madison2092
Fayette2052
Iowa1971
Harrison1962
Mitchell1860
Howard1856
Humboldt1833
Calhoun1792
Hancock1772
Mills1731
Palo Alto1720
Pocahontas1562
Lucas1536
Monroe15310
Page1500
Cass1482
Osceola1460
Monona1441
Jefferson1351
Appanoose1293
Taylor1271
Union1263
Davis1224
Van Buren1121
Ida1100
Fremont1040
Worth1040
Keokuk1011
Greene990
Montgomery905
Wayne842
Audubon741
Adair681
Decatur660
Ringgold482
Adams330
Unassigned40
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