U.S. cybersecurity "not in a good place" for 2018, 2020 elections, says NYT's David Sanger

Cyber concerns ahead of 2018 elections

Because the U.S. never took the steps necessary to respond to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. is "not in a good place" on cybersecurity, says David Sanger, national security reporter for The New York Times.

"We have lost a huge amount of time," Sanger told CBS News' Major Garrett, on this week's episode of "The Takeout" podcast, recorded at Rare Steakhouse. What the nation should have done, he said, was establish a 9/11-style commission that set aside politics and determined how the election meddling happened and how it could be prevented in the future.

Instead, Sanger pointed out, President Trump diverted resources to establish a commission to investigate an alleged 3 million fraudulent votes, an unsubstantiated claim made by the president after Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about the same number.   

Sanger thinks that initially, the Trump administration seemed to take cybersecurity seriously, with promising hires like homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, who had previous cyber experience under the Bush administration, and cyber coordinator Rob Joyce. Joyce had previously run the Tailored Access Operations unit of the National Security Agency, the unit in charge of breaking into foreign systems.

"Obviously if you're looking to defend your bank, the first one you want to go hire is a really good bank robber," Sanger told Garrett. "You got to think like the other side."

But John Bolton fired Bossert just two days after he became national security adviser, and Joyce was gradually eased out, finally returning to the National Security Agency. Then followed a quiet announcement that the position of White House cyber coordinator would be eliminated.  

Sanger likened the chances of another cyber attack to hurricane season, in that you don't know where it's going to strike, you don't know when it's going to strike, but you know that it's going to happen.

"Certainly an issue I think investigators, Congress, would look at is why did you get rid of the top cybersecurity coordinator in the White House?" Sanger told Garrett. "You wouldn't imagine getting rid of a nuclear coordinator." 

For more of Major's conversation with Jim Bridenstine, download "The Takeout" podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or Spotify. New episodes are available every Friday morning

Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday and Saturday nights at 9pm ET/PT. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

FacebookTwitterInstagram: @takeoutpodcast

Email: takeoutpodcast@cbsnews.com 

Producers: Arden Farhi, Katiana Krawchenko