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Feinstein: Obama and Romney Both Wrong on Greatest Threat to America

The longtime senator and Intelligence Committee member notes U.S. vulnerability to cyber-attacks.

Contrary to what Barack Obama and Mitt Romney said in Monday night’s debate, the greatest threat to America is cyber-attack, says Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The 79-year-old senator—who visited San Diego on Tuesday—told a group of about 200 business and community leaders that it’s “imperative” Congress pass a cyber-security bill.

“The greatest threat is a major cyber attack,” said Feinstein, who chairs the Intelligence Committee. “We have major cyber problems. We know that it is quite possible to take down the electric grid. The problem is these attacks are kept silent.”

In the final presidential debate Monday, the president suggested the greatest threat to the country is terrorist networks while Gov. Mitt Romney indicated it’s a nuclear Iran.

Feinstein—who spoke at a downtown luncheon hosted by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and CONNECT—said though the country is safer than it was pre-9/11, a cyber-security bill that requires certain information be shared needs to pass.

Although audience members paid $75 a ticket—or $700 for a table of 10—the groups said the Westin Hotel event was not a political fundraiser.

Democrat Feinstein—running for re-election against Republican Elizabeth Emken—touched on a number of other issues, including the economy.

She said though the economy is improving—it’s moving at a slow rate. She also recalled the fourth quarter of President George W. Bush’s last term and being told the country faced a “crash worse than the Great Depression.”

“We see some positive signs that the recession is coming to an end,” she said. “It looks like we’re coming out, but we’re not coming out with a boom.”

She noted that 1.7 million homes are under water—having mortgage payoffs higher than their value, with 165,000 in San Diego County, or 28 percent.

She also said California was “very hard hit” with six of the 10 cities hardest hit in America being in California.

Still, she said consumer confidence is higher since the crash of the market, noting the unemployment rate of 7.8 percent is the lowest since January 2009, and foreclosures are down by 30 percent compared to this time last year.

Despite that, threats of sequestration loom—the mandatory federal cuts in defense and other programs that grew out of the failure of Congress to act.

Feinstein said if the $1 trillion in cuts take effect, “California is the Number 1 loser” with 220,000 jobs to be cut in the state—170,000 of which will be in the defense industry.

“These cuts are not being made with discretion,” she said. “It is made arbitrarily. It is bad and will take out 3 percent of the GDP.”

She said she believes that House and Senate Appropriation Committees should determine where cuts can be made to get the country back on track.

“Do it with a scalpel and not a meat-ax,” she said repeatedly.

The popular politician ended her speech by telling attendees how the U.S. Senate has changed since she entered in 1993. She noted that 157 cloture votes have stopped bills or appointments during the Obama administration and that “regardless of who is president,” she hopes the “atmosphere” will change.

“In many respects, it was a better place,” she said. “Today, everything is a fight.”

Libi Uremovic October 23, 2012 at 11:50 PM
'...The 79-year-old senator..." she's 79 and running for another six (6) year term??? what's the record for old age in congress ...103 or something... i don't understand why congress feels they have to die in office....do they really have that many dark secrets to protect ??
Libi Uremovic October 23, 2012 at 11:58 PM
"...“The greatest threat is a major cyber attack,”..." a cyber attack is a temporary situation......it's an inconvienance, but fixable... i would consider our greatest threat our hemorrhaging national debt combined with the fact that china now controls all of our electronic and computer manufacturing
Scot October 24, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Our greatest threat is our political class. Both right and left are equally to blame for the paralysis affecting our fiscal health. Feinstein and her ilk need to retire at 65 and make way for fresh perspective if the USA is to halt its decline.
Paul Byrne October 24, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Interestingly enough I believe we need to move further upstream with respect to vulnerability. The real vulnerability we have is our power grid. It woudl be a fairly simple matter to disable all that is electronic which would create far greater havoc with little effort. Our power grid is VERY OLD and TIRED with antiquated controls and management. Everytime I consider this vulnerability I shudder
Sarah Riccitelli October 24, 2012 at 04:08 PM
NBC already covered this with their new show Revolution about a permanent global Blackout. Has anyone else seen it?
Jay Berman October 24, 2012 at 04:32 PM
It's high time 'ol Dianne retire and enjoy the gazillions of bucks she aquired during her numerous terms as senator. She is a perfect example of why we should repeal the 17th amendment. Cyber threats are real, I can't understand why any critical infrastructure or government networks touch the Internet. You need a path in to these assets to do damage, there should be no path in. I would think suicide bombers blowing up in Walmarts would be a bigger threat ... This administraton refuses to admit we have a serious Islamic problem here ..
Ken Stone October 24, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Sen. Strom Thurmond served until age 100: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strom_Thurmond
Batman October 24, 2012 at 08:16 PM
If the internet were to go completely dead this afternoon my life would continue on as usual, minus a little entertainment. If internet inventor Al Gore were to be abducted by aliens this afternoon it wouldn't change anything either. If Di Fi were abducted along with him I would throw a party.
Doug Curlee October 24, 2012 at 08:48 PM
jay.. hate to point this out, but.. feinstein already had gazillions of bucks before she ever ran for the san francisco board of supervisors..she didn't and doesn't need the money.. just f.y.i... doug
Batman October 24, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Yeah, she's most definitely one of the evil top 1%.
Sarah Riccitelli October 24, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Jay, Radical green environmentalists pose a far greater threat to our infrastructure than Muslims. Eco-terrorism is the most dangerous & pervasive threat to our nation especially because environmentalism is so entrenched into mainstream culture, far more than Islam. Of course, most environmentalists & Muslims are good people who simply try to help their communities. But even the best ideas can be hijacked by extremist psychos.
Jay Berman October 24, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Sarah, I agree that is also a huge threat .. we have many threats that can cause havoc on society. The global warming hoax IS destroying us from the inside, Islamic radicals will destroy us from the outside ... An EMP weapon, basically an airburst nuke can destroy our electric grid and anything connected to it ... We have no shortage of threats and a massive shortage of leadership ..
Jay Berman October 24, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Can I bring the wine ?
Jay Berman October 24, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Doug .... She has directed all sorts of business to her husband .. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/21/senate-husbands-firm-cashes-in-on-crisis/?page=all Here is a gem ... DF was the chaiman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee when this happened http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Army-contract-for-Feinstein-s-husband-Blum-is-a-2621196.php Commonly called corruption Doug ... Oh, Mr. Blum owns Blum Capital .. you know, a venture capital firm like Bain Capital ..
Ed Sorrels October 25, 2012 at 01:50 AM
My Two Cent's, I think the most dangerous threat this Nation faces is the loss of faith by so many of her citizens in their Government and Government representivies, With hope and confidence in her by her citizens the road forward look's pretty dismal to me. Every election fewer and fewer of us vote, Why ? I think it is beacuse most of us have lost faith in our Nation. We are reaching a point in history where if we don't get busy on our country we may well not have one. In our comments here on Patch most of the comments about out Government are negative not that there arn't good thing's happening but right now at election time promises are being made and it is up to us to determine who is speaking the truth, and pointring out the best path for America ! And vote for them. PLEASE GET OUT AND VOTE AND TAKE YOUR NEIGHBOR ALONG.
Jay Berman October 25, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Ed - You're 1000% correct ....
Things I Learned October 25, 2012 at 02:14 AM
1000%?! That's almost one in three odds! http://lamesa.patch.com/articles/weber-england-face-off-over-lemon-grove-sales-tax-debate-of-2010#comment_5121175
David B Secor October 25, 2012 at 03:00 AM
I believe that there should be a constitutional amendment for term limits in Congress. In Feinstein's particular case, there are several issues that recommend her not remaining in office. 1) Her age is certainly a factor, but not necessarily a determining one. 2) Her acceptance of (legal) bribes and selling out the people, including and especially those who voted for her in the past is the most compelling reason. She voted for the war in Iraq knowing if she followed the Constitution and insisted the Senate declare war and not surrender it's power to the President's discretion, she might lose the next election. Possibly losing an election was unthinkable to her. So she joined the now discredited stampede for pre-emptive invasion and the over $1 trillion, thousands of U.S. lives, tens of thousands wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed wounded and displaced that resulted from er cowardice. The government in Iraq today is a pitiful and cruel imitation of what anyone would call a democracy. The Iraqis themselves are the only ones who lost more than we Americans did as a result of the "war." The war was not paid for and along with the last 10 years in Afghanistan are the major part of this massive deficit we face today. 3) Senator Feinstein voted for the $800 million unpaid-for drug benefit bill, again fearing a "NO" vote, while the intellectually and fiscally honest thing to do, might mean losing an election. Fe
Libi Uremovic October 25, 2012 at 03:28 AM
expecting aliens to solve our problems is about as practical as expecting politicians to solve our problems.....
David B Secor October 25, 2012 at 03:36 AM
4) Feinstein supported SOPA the bill to allow cable and media companies to control the people's free access to the internet. An obvious "No" vote for Democrats, who appreciate free and open access to the internet. But Feinstein (over $1 million) Boxer (over $1 million) and Dems favorite liberal Al Franken of Minnesota ($750,000) all took Big Money contributions from parties "interested" in seeing SOPA passed, supported the bill - Feinstein was a sponsor! - and betrayed their own supporters. 5) Some say she can't be running again for the money, as she and her husband are already in the top 1%. Some - are wrong. I understand why many Dems can't see this because they themselves are not money addicts. But the Feinsteins clearly are addicted. What poorer Dems fail to process is this - rich people want to get richer, even MORE than you want to get rich. That is the Feinsteins. 5) When Feinstein's own position is safe, she will flag-wave, pander and grandstand on progressive issues . It's not her history of almost always supporting her constituents on progressive issues I question. That's true. It's "almost always." It's those extremely critical times when the moment came for her to show real courage, personal and professional integrity, when she was called upon to stand up, do the right thing, but instead whether out of greed, self-interest or fear, she failed, and did great harm to her constituents and the nation. For those reasons, she should go.
David B Secor October 25, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Cyber-security is the #1 threat to the nation. As "someone" demonstrated in Iran by surreptitiously breaking into the system controlling the centrifuges for its nuclear program, causing them to speed up undetected and destroy themselves. Someone also penetrated the Iranian banking system leaving it in chaos. Similarly, were a cyber terrorist anywhere in the world, whether a government or organization agent, or an individual, able to penetrate the system in a U.S. nuclear plant, commands could be sent to disable or affect internal systems. Security at the Pentagon, major corporations and utilities has already been broken on any number of occasions. Everything we or the Israelis or Chinese have done can still be done. We, and possibly they, already have in place cyber- war plans in case of conflict that will most certainly compromise their power grid, communication systems, satellites, military command and control, financial system, etc. All at the push of a button and all accomplished faster than you can give the order to launch a missile attack. Feinstein is right on this one. But it's not a surprise. It was in all the papers.
Libi Uremovic October 25, 2012 at 04:18 AM
we the people have allowed government officials to do what they want instead of giving them direction... look at the city council agenda....it says 'ib city council' ...and 'planning commission', public financing authority, housing authority, rda successor agency ' we hired them to do one (1) job - to manage the city...to make sure the tax dollar is going to the best interests of the community. but they have created four (4) other entities and have declared themselves the heads of these 'authorities' ... the sole purpose is to divert the money from the general fund... after the election we'll call for a restructuring of the city government and council...close down rda, lobbyists groups, and all the authorities they've bestowed upon themselves and give the city council specific instructions on what we want them to focus on... and we'll re-structure the city finances so the books close every month and everyone can see where the money comes in and where the money goes out... if we can get the cities to pay for their own expenses instead of wasting their money and pushing the costs onto the state we can get control of our economy....
Thughunter October 25, 2012 at 04:19 PM
This woman, and people of similar ilk are the greatest threat to this country.
Jay Berman October 26, 2012 at 12:37 AM
OMG this is freightning .. I agree with Libi too !!
Jay Berman October 26, 2012 at 12:42 AM
David, you are correct that it is a big threat ... the infection of the Iranian centrifuges was done from the inside, probably with a thumb drive that infected their network. We should have a federal directive that no critical infrastructure system touch the public Internet. All federal computers must go through a secure proxy, no direct internet connections whatsoever. I think we should be prepared with food and water .. be prepared to live with no running water or electricity for a few days ... We should also be prepared for an EMP device, an airburst nuclear explosion would generate a pulse that would take out the grid and most things connected to it ..
Libi Uremovic October 26, 2012 at 01:11 AM
David B Secor: 'I believe that there should be a constitutional amendment for term limits in Congress....,' i believe there should be a sense of decency for term limits... i don't understand why the state party doesn't retire her themselves...surely the dems have someone under 50 that can sell us out to the highest bidder ...
Jay Berman October 26, 2012 at 01:15 AM
I think we should repeal the 17th amendment .. the senate is out of control, senators were appointed by states assemblies to alternating 6 year terms to represnt the will of the state ... the 17th amendment made senators popularly elected, making them politicians with 6 years to raise money to stay in office ... they die in office, you can't get them out of office, some no longer even live in their states, they live in Washington .. thats why states rights are walked all over since we eliminated this important check and balance ..

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