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U.S. Has Effective Ways To Respond To Russian Hacking, Woolsey Says


Now, President-elect Trump has scorned up to now the U.S. conclusion of Russian hacking. But one of his advisers on intelligence matters offers a subtly different view. Former CIA Director James Woolsey has downplayed the Russian interference a bit. He told us that at least there's no evidence that they compromised voting machines. But Woolsey knows the hack of Democratic Party emails resembles Russia's involvement in other democracies.

JAMES WOOLSEY: They have something called disinformation - dezinformatsiya - which is an interesting word because it basically means lie. And they have hundreds of thousands of people working on photoshopping photos, rewriting history. They've been doing this for a long time. They spend a lot of time and effort doing it. They do it with European political parties. But this dezinformatsiya stuff is very ugly, and they focus it on lots of different parts of the world.

INSKEEP: Now, Woolsey knows President Obama and then his successor face a question about the DNC hacks.

Do those call for a response from the United States?

WOOLSEY: I think they may, but we may not, if they do it right - if the U.S. government does the response right - we may never hear about it because one of the things you want to do is make sure they know you can deal roughly with them when they deal roughly with you. And talking about it, giving speeches about it, is not the best way to proceed. It's a lot more effective and a lot more powerful if you do something very powerful to an adversary and don't say a word.

INSKEEP: What advice, if you can share it, are you giving to Mr. Trump given that you're a policy adviser to him on this issue?

WOOLSEY: Well, I shouldn't get into - I've worked for four presidents and never said a word about what I said or they said to me (laughter). I'm going to keep that record going.

INSKEEP: Well, OK, let me ask it another way. What if I were president-elect? What would you tell me to do?

WOOLSEY: I would say go after getting a competitor out there to oil products, such as, let's say, alcohol - like methanol with an M - so that you can drive down the price of oil and you will see troubled Russia. You will see troubled Iran. You will see troubled Venezuela, a troubled Gulf. A number of countries that that we would like to see run into difficulty - and not be as aggressive as they sometimes are - would behave very differently. And he has a very fine list of people who understand, I think, these issues about oil. Jim Mattis and I have been email buddies dealing with energy and strategy for some time now, years.

INSKEEP: I think you're suggesting to me never mind about a tit for tat response for the DNC hack. Just destroy their economy.

WOOLSEY: Well, I don't want to destroy it. Let's just say we want to make them frown a bit.

INSKEEP: Director Woolsey, thanks very much, enjoyed talking with you.

WOOLSEY: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: December 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous headline and summary misspelled James Woolsey's name as Woosley.