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.”