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Colonial Pipeline Hack; Joe Lieberman is Interviewed about Cyber Security Legislation and Liz Cheney; Capitol Police Saw Proud Boys before Breach. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired May 11, 2021 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[09:33:59]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, days since the cyberattack led to the shutdown of one of the nation's biggest pipelines, a top government official says Colonial Pipeline still has not shared information with the federal government about the vulnerability that ransomware group DarkSide took advantage of to infiltrate the company.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Josh Campbell and Pete Muntean are covering this.

Josh, I've spoken to cybersecurity experts who said that actually Colonial, early on, they did all the right things, they contacted, you know, the government agencies, they shut down some of their systems to limit the expanse of the attacks. So what are we learning now?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're hearing is that, as you mentioned, they have not shared these vulnerabilities. And crisis response following a cyberattack, there are two phases. There's the what happened, the immediate threat, and we know that, as you mentioned, they brought in outside experts, they brought in members of the federal government in order to try to stop the immediate threat.

We also know that the FBI has sent out what's called a flash alert, which is basically the ones and zeros to other companies around the country to have them scan their own systems to ensure that they don't have this same software on their computer systems.

[09:35:04]

The problem is, there's this other second phase, the how it happened. And what we're told from a top DHS official is that those vulnerabilities, how these intruders got into that system, that information has not yet made its way to the federal government. And just by comparison, one case that both you, Jim, and Poppy, covered extensively back in 2014, the North Korea attack on Sony Pictures. I worked that case in the FBI. Sony and the FBI worked hand in glove

throughout. They were great partners, were giving wide access and sharing information. But you have to ask yourself, I mean this is an entertainment company. Had they not shared that information, there would be no threat to U.S. national security, arguably.

Here, in this case, with Colonial Pipeline, we're not talking about an ordinary company, we're talking about a piece of critical infrastructure. And so that is what is raising alarm bells now, the fact that they wouldn't share those vulnerabilities is very concerning.

And finally our colleague, Jeneva Sands (ph), spoke yesterday with this top DHS official who really summed up the importance of information sharing, saying that we are deeply focused on sharing information with other organizations to protect themselves, both from this specific actor, the DarkSide ransom group, and also since we know that ransom actors often use similar techniques and procedures, making sure that all organizations understand the steps they could take to protect themselves.

Guys, we'll have to wait and see what the White House and Congress does in order to try to perhaps demand more openness from this piece of critical infrastructure.

HARLOW: Right, because there's not legislation now. They tried a decade ago, but there's not legislation now that mandates the sharing from private companies to the government of that information.

And, Pete, I mean this, not only a national security threat, a major supply threat up and down the eastern seaboard. Do we know what the impact on gas prices are -- is going to be?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, this really couldn't come at a worse time for the gasoline industry. Demand for gas was already going up. But the number of truck drivers available to deliver gas to gas stations had gone down during the pandemic.

And now we're learning there's a bit of a rush on gas in the states that could be impacted by this the most. Gas Buddy says just yesterday demand for gas from Florida to Virginia jumped 40 percent, a 20 percent jump nationwide.

You know, the Colonial Pipeline supplies 45 percent of all fuel used on the East Coast. This all means that the average price of a gallon of gas now $2.98, the highest it has been in six years. A 60 percent jump in the last year. You know, this was thought to be the summer of the road trip, and this could clearly put the brakes on that.

HARLOW: Maybe. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: All right, we'll be watching.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: The Biden administration says so far no major disruptions to supply. We'll see if that stays that way.

Pete Muntean, Josh Campbell, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Ahead for us, Congresswoman Liz Cheney has said he was one of the lawmakers she respected most as someone who stood by his convictions. She was talking about former Senator Joe Lieberman. He's with us, next.

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[09:42:12]

HARLOW: Next hour, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is going to hold a hearing on improving federal cybersecurity. This comes after the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline and last year's huge SolarWinds breach where Russian hackers infiltrated U.S. government computer networks.

Now, the growing question this morning, could attacks like these have been prevent if key cybersecurity legislation had been passed nearly a decade ago?

You may not know this, but a bill establishing cybersecurity standards for most critical privately owned cyber networks, called the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, was supported by the Obama White House and most Senate Democrats, but it was killed through a Republican filibuster that year. It was even weakened to make the stricter security measures voluntary, but Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushed hard against it saying it was too much of a financial burden on private companies.

Well, one of the chief co-sponsors of that bill was former U.S. Senator and 2000 Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Joe Lieberman, along with Susan Collins. He joins me now.

Good morning, Senator, and thank you.

JOE LIEBERMAN (I), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Good morning to you, Poppy. Thanks for having me on. And thanks for remembering that we tried to do something about this almost ten years ago. But it failed because of partisanship, and I guess I'd say effective lobbying by businesses that didn't want to have the extra responsibility to protect the country.

HARLOW: Well, I remember when you wrote and reread your op-ed from 2012 again this morning and you wrote this as this bill was on its way to failing, this is one of those days when I fear for our country, when I'm not proud of the United States Senate. We've got a crisis. It's one we all acknowledge. It's not just that there's a theoretical or speculative threat of cyberattack against our country, it's real.

That was then. This is now. It's real. It happened. What did you think Friday when you saw the news?

LIEBERMAN: I was really frustrated almost and angry. I didn't have an "I told you so" feeling. I had a feeling that, damn it, we should have done something about this nine or ten years ago. This was a totally non-partisan national security, national priority concern and yet the votes, except for people like Susan Collins, broke on party lines.

I mean there are basic facts here that we can see then and are ever clearer now, which is that in America, because we're a market economy, most of the critical infrastructure, fuel pipelines, electricity, telecommunications, banking, et cetera, et cetera, are not in the hands of the government.

They're owned by private people. Eighty-five percent of our critical infrastructure owned by the private sector and yet it's that infrastructure that will be attacked by foreign enemies and terrorist groups whose cyber attack capacities get better and better.

[09:45:13]

So it was very clear that we had to -- because the private sector wasn't doing it on its own because it costs money to defend themselves. We had to require -- you're right, we compromised. We made the standards voluntary. We gave them incentives to do this. But the Republican Party, unfortunately, to a person lobbied by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, defeated this bill. We got 52 votes, but it wasn't 60 to break a filibuster.

And we're still vulnerable. Just about nothing has happened in the last nine years to improve our defenses against such a cyberattack as happened with the Colonial Pipeline. Much worse can happen unless we act sooner. I hope we do.

HARLOW: Clearly we're still vulnerable. The question is, has politics changed. Has the U.S. Senate changed in a way that would make this be able to get through without -- I mean, you know, without getting -- short of getting rid of the filibuster. I don't know.

I do want to ask you, if I could, Senator, about the state of politics and what's about to happen to your friend on the other side of the aisle, Liz Cheney. Tomorrow she'll likely lose her seat of leadership in the Republican Party.

And, in 2013, when she was then a candidate for the Wyoming State Senate, she listed you in "Time" magazine as one of the lawmakers she admired most. And she said it was because you were someone who stood for what they believe, no matter the criticism that came. Funny note, she actually played you in the debate prep with her father against you for the 2000 election. But what is your reaction to what is happening to Liz Cheney right now?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I really admire her. I mean if President Kennedy was writing his famous book "Profiles in Courage" right now, Congresswoman Cheney would get a chapter, really. She's a profile in courage.

And the reason I say that is, in an age of terrible partisanship, which is disabling our government, and in which people really in both parties don't pay respect to the truth or are their own positions and values, she's had the courage to stand up and say, hey, this is wrong. The election was decided. Joe Biden was elected last November. What

happened on January 6th was horrific for our great democracy. And she's putting the country and her vision of what's right ahead of partisanship. And whether you agree with her or not, honestly, you've got to respect her. And we deserve more of that.

What she's doing now, she's clearly not doing for political reasons because she only loses from this politically. But I think history will treat her right, fairly positively and then hopefully one day the Republican Party will come back to its senses and they'll be a leadership role for her in that future.

HARLOW: Senator Joe Lieberman, thank you very much for coming on. I wish we had a little bit more time, but we'll have you back.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Poppy. I look forward to it. Have a good day.

HARLOW: You, too.

SCIUTTO: Just ahead, a Democratic lawmaker says that when hundreds of Proud Boys started to gather at the Capitol on January 6th, officials directed key resources, such as Capitol Police officers, somewhere else. Now she wants to know why.

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HARLOW: Welcome back.

According to a key lawmaker looking into the insurrection on the Capitol, hours before the U.S. Capitol was breeched on January 6th, Capitol Police observed roughly 200 members of the Proud Boys group moving toward the Senate building.

SCIUTTO: But instead of focusing on that group, the department actually sent officers somewhere else. This is according to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. Possibly another missed warning sign.

CNN's Whitney Wild has more.

So, Whitney, Capitol Police inspector general, he faced some tough questions at yesterday's hearing. There's a pattern here, right? I mean the idea that no one knew anything or saw any, you know, warning sign here, has been disproven.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. And so the context of all of this was, this was a hearing to examine the inspector general's review into the threat assessment and counter surveillance operations at Capitol Police.

And so Representative Zoe Lofgren was laying out this timeline and she says at 11:00 a.m. Capitol Police had eyes on 200 Proud Boys that were moving toward the Senate side. They're important because this is an extremist group we've been covering extensively. We now know many of them are facing charges, some of them are facing charges for conspiracy.

So she was making the point that there was this extremist group at 11:00 a.m., hours before the riot happened, that Capitol Police had had eyes on. She says there was just one mention of the Proud Boys in that timeline. She says later in the timeline, around 11:30, Capitol Police noted that they were monitoring three to four demonstrators. Three to four individuals.

And so she was sort of exasperated and she asked the inspector general, what happened here? He didn't have a good answer for her in that moment. He said that that answer would probably come up in later hearings when he's able to analyze more areas of Capitol Police and their response that day. So we might hear more about that probably in June or July.

However, again, it is important because, again, the Proud Boys played a very pivotal role in the Capitol riot that day. Capitol Police, though, say that they did have the Proud Boys being monitored.

[09:55:04]

They had intelligence, counter surveillance, intelligence officials monitoring the Proud Boys. They were also bringing in intelligence from MPD, who was also watching the Proud Boys. So the idea that they just ignored it, they say, is, frankly, just misplaced and mischaracterized. They say they were watching and that they were observing all possible threats that day, Poppy and Jim.

HARLOW: Whitney, thank you from that reporting -- for that reporting in Washington very much.

Ahead, more than a third of the country is now fully vaccinated. What does that mean for masks? Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, expected to answer that question and many more in just a few minutes. We'll take you live to Capitol Hill.

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HARLOW: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

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Happening right now, two consequential Senate hearings kicking off on Capitol Hill, one on the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the other on better protecting our country.