Top Intel Dem: Let N. Korea Know Not to 'Mess with Us Again'

Kim Jong-un applauds as the Supreme People's Assembly is convened June 29, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (NKO via AP Photo)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the U.S. should launch an information campaign against North Korea so their government knows not to “mess with us again.”

Using China’s theft of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data as an example, Schiff said the U.S. would likely not be able to stop cyber hacks for “foreign intelligence purposes.” Citing Russian involvement in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack, he called on the White House and Congress to take action to prevent foreign hacking intended to influence “democratic outcomes” like elections.

At the time of the Sony hack, Schiff said he was afraid that the lack of a strong response from the United States might be interpreted as “a low-cost, undeniable way to attack our enemies.” Schiff said he remains concerned about the cyber hacks from North Korea, not just because he represents parts of Burbank, Calif., but because the U.S. needs better deterrents to prevent future attacks.

“We have to establish, I think, a much more potent deterrent – that doesn’t mean that it’s cyber tit-for-tat,” he said last week during a discussion about cybersecurity at the Center for American Progress.

He suggested the United States do more to expose the North Korean regime’s “terrible” actions against their own citizens.

“We could devastate, obviously, North Korea, but we are in many ways even more at risk because of the way we are electronically wired and integrated – even far more rudimentary tools that the North Koreans have could wreak a lot of havoc on us. So in that case, what I was advocating was that we do what gets the North Korean’s attention, which was we begin an effort to get good information to the North Korean people about just how bad their regime is so that they know if they mess with us again, they’re going to have more of their citizens exposed to how they are starving their own people and just what kind of a terrible autocratic rule they have,” Schiff said.

Schiff disagreed with comparisons being made between Russia’s hacking of the DNC and China hacking OPM information on millions of federal government workers.

“I hope this is something an investigation will determine – it may very well be at the time that the Russian actors entered the DNC the [intelligence community] may have anticipated this would be just like any other intelligence-gathering operation and it would end there, not foreseeing that this would be effectively weaponized in the form of the dumping of that information,” he said, referring to WikiLeaks posting information stolen in the hack.

“Now we see the president and his team wanting to blur the lines between China and their OPM hack, which was for foreign intelligence gathering purposes, and Russia and their hacking and dumping, which was the purpose of affecting an election. And so when you have actors even within our democracy willing to obscure the differences between foreign intelligence gathering and interference of political affairs, or you have foreign actors trying to do the same, I think it’s incumbent on us to try to develop, where we can, rules of the road, what is permissible in cyber space,” he added.

Schiff said former President Obama made progress with Chinese President Xi Jinping by telling him “economic espionage” should be “outside of the lane” of appropriate actions.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to prevent or establish a rule of the road that we can’t engage in foreign intelligence gathering. Even if we did, no one would follow it if it wasn’t in their interests,” the congressman said.

“But we ought to establish a clear red line when it comes to dumping of information to influence Democratic outcomes, and obviously we’re far from having done that.”