The head of the NSA said Thursday that Russia's hack of Democratic Party emails is consistent with its history of trying to manipulate and influence affairs in other countries — but the scope of such operations has changed dramatically.
"Cyber adds a whole other dimension to this because it now enables individuals, actors, groups, nation states to acquire data at massive scale and then divulge that," Adm. Michael S. Rogers told cyber professionals at the sixth annual Cyber Maryland Conference in Baltimore.
The job now for the National Security Agency and other parts of the government, Rogers said, is to make sure that Americans continue to have confidence in the electoral system.
"As we work our way through this particular issue, that's always at the forefront of our minds," he said.
Online conflict between Russia and the United States that typically takes place out of public view has burst into the national consciousness during the presidential election with the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Hillary Clinton and their release through the website WikiLeaks and other sites.
The intelligence community took the unusual step this month of publicly naming Russia's "senior-most officials" as the culprits.
The CIA isweighing options for a counterattack, NBC News reported last week. The NSA could help.
Clinton hammered the point during her debate Wednesday with Republican nominee Donald Trump. Trump said he would condemn any Russian interference with the election, but declined to blame Russia for the hacks.
Rogers was asked about comments by one of his predecessors, Michael Hayden, who said this week that collecting emails sent by political operatives was a legitimate intelligence operation.
Rogers responded with a question.
"We need to step back as a nation and think about the implications of that," he said. "Is that something we're comfortable with?"