Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) blasted American tech companies on Wednesday for not doing what the Obama administration's intelligence community failed to do over the previous eight years: face down Russia and defend against cyber warfare.
Representatives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter testified before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee as part of the wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which included distributing trolling and fake news content across those platforms.
CNN reported that lawyers for all three organizations took sharp questioning from lawmakers and admitted needing to do more to confront bad actors on their platforms.
Feinstein was particularly brusque in her comments.
"I must say, I don't think you get it," Feinstein said. "I think the fact that you're general counsels, you defend your company, that what we're talking about is a cataclysmic change. What we're talking about is the beginning of cyber warfare."
"What we're talking about is a major foreign power with the sophistication and ability to involve themselves in a presidential election and sow conflict and discontent all over this country," she added. "We are not going to go away, gentlemen, and this is a very big deal."
Feinstein went on to say she went home the night before with "profound disappointment" after getting "vague answers" to her "specific questions" at a separate committee hearing.
"You have a huge problem on your hands," she said. "And the U.S. is going to be the first of the countries to bring it to your attention, and other countries are going to follow, I'm sure. Because you bear this responsibility. You created these platforms, and now they're being misused. And you have to be the ones who do something about it, or we will."
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) November 1, 2017
Feinstein and other Democrats' sharp questioning of tech leaders for not doing more to stop Russian malfeseance comes after two terms of the Obama administration during which Putin's power and stature rose at home, in the Middle East, and around the world.
The Washington Post reported in June on Obama's "secret struggle" to punish Russia for its interference campaign, which included details on his prediction Hillary Clinton would triumph over Donald Trump despite Russian efforts. One administration official fretted that they "choked" in their response to the intelligence showing the Russians were seeking to disrupt the 2016 election.
In 2012, Obama, top Democrats, and members of the media memorably dismissed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's contention that Russia was "our No. 1 geopolitical foe."
Obama mocked Romney to his face at a debate for that statement, quipping, "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War's been over for 20 years."
Obama's administration failed to prevent Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, and Russia also usurped the U.S. as a Middle East power-broker by striking a deal to remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons stockpile in 2013.
Assad gassed his own people again in 2017, showing that it wasn't much of an agreement.