Himes Calls on State Department to Advance International Cyber Norms
Washington, DC— Today, The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released the third volume of the Committee’s investigation into Russian election interference. In part, SSCI recommended that the US exercise its leadership in creating international cyber norms.
“The rules of cyber engagement are being written by hostile foreign actors, including Russia and China,” SSCI stated in a press release accompanying the report. “U.S. leadership is necessary to establish a formalized international agreement on acceptable uses of cyber capabilities.”
Congressman Jim Himes (CT-04), member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Chairman of the Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research (STAR) Subcommittee, has promoted the development and implementation of International cyber-norms for years and welcomed SSCI’s recommendation.
During the Obama administration, Himes reached out to Secretary of State Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice to implore the US State Department to make international cyber norms a priority, but the issue has never received the serious attention it deserves. Today, in the wake of the SSCI report, Himes is once again reaching out to the State Department, sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encouraging a refocusing on this issue.
“As chair of the STAR Subcommittee, I know we must stay at the forefront of technological innovation as we have over the last few generations,” said Himes. “However, we will never monopolize technology for long. So, just as we established conventions, norms, and protocols in the realms of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, we must do the same with cyber warfare, so that civilians don’t become collateral damage in avoidable modern conflicts.”
Congressman Himes has previously pushed for the introduction of international accords that would set the rules and standards for cyber conflict, referring to them as the E-Neva Accords in reference to the Geneva Accords of the 20th Century. The United Nations has done some work to develop guidelines in this area, but there is currently no broad effort to expand these guidelines into official international agreements. Countries around the world share the common interest of clearly defined rules to ensure cyber-attacks are not turned into virtual weapons of mass destruction, and that there is a line drawn between acts of war and criminality.
During his opening statement in a hearing on global cyber threats in 2015, Himes said, “It’s essential that we commit ourselves as a country to force and lead the establishment of some rules of the road internationally on how warfare and crime frankly, is conducted in the cyber realm. We don't know today what constitutes an act of war. We don't know what an appropriate response is. We don't know where the line is drawn between crime and warfare.”
In 2016, Himes introduced the Cyber Act of War Act, a bill that would require the Administration and the Department of Defense to develop a policy for determining when an action carried out in cyberspace constitutes a use of force against the United States and to update the Law of War Manual accordingly. Himes also proposed a successful amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in 2017 that required the Secretary of Defense submit a report to Congress comprehensively outlining military procedures in response to a malicious cyber activity carried out against the United States.
“Those of us who work closely with the intelligence community have long recognized this as an area where we need much greater focus and resources,” said Himes. “The SSCI report is an excellent reminder that the fight to protect our national interests from foreign interference and attack is ongoing, and we must make the investments into our responses and technologies today if we’re going to remain safe in the future.”
The full text of Congressman Himes’ letter to Secretary of State Pompeo can be found below.
February 5, 2020
The Honorable Michael Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. State Department
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
Today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released Volume 3 of their bipartisan report Russian Active Measures Campaign and Interference: US Government Response to Russian Activities. One of the recommendations in the report underlines a position that I have been advocating for years, “the U.S. (must) exert its leadership in creating international cyber norms.” I write to urge you to promote U.S. leadership in establishing comprehensive international principals of conduct in cyberspace. I would welcome the chance to work with you on specific initiatives to advance this goal.
The United Nations currently has two separate and competing resolutions that will establish the rules on actions in cyberspace. We have an opportunity to assure that this process serves the United States’ national security interests. Our lack of leadership in this space risks allowing the rules of cyber engagement to be written by hostile foreign actors. International agreement on any matter, particularly with our geopolitical rivals, is difficult, and the United States must demonstrate leadership in these efforts.
An international cyber agreement won’t stop all cyberwarfare and bad behavior, especially given the proliferation of offensive cyber tools and commodification of these capabilities. It is in our best interest, however, to establish comprehensive, official norms for cyberspace. I look forward to working with you and urge you to forge further ahead with the world’s first E-Neva Convention.
Member of Congress