Thursday, December 29, 2016

Obama Announces Tough Sanctions Against Russia For Elections Interference

President Obama issued a statement today announcing several actions to be taken against the Russian government for cyber-activity intended to interfere in the recent U.S. elections.

From his statement:

Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election. These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.

All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process. These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year. Such activities have consequences. Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response.

The list of actions include (via NBC News):

• Shutting down two compounds, one in in Maryland and one in New York, "used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes."

• Sanctions against the Russian intelligence services GRU and FSB, and four high-ranking officers of the GRU. The sanctions are also aimed at two suspected hackers, including one wanted by the FBI in two other cases, and three companies that allegedly provided support to the GRU's cyber operations.

• Releasing technical information about Russian cyber activity, "to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia's global campaign of malicious cyber activities."

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a declassified report offering some specifics regarding the Russian involvement in what those agencies now call "malicious cyber activity."

President Obama also indicated that there may be more covert actions taken. "These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities," Obama said. "We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized."

Several members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have called for strenuous investigations into Russia's involvement including Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

On the other end of the spectrum, President-elect Donald Trump says we shouldn't bother looking into Russia's interference in U.S. elections.

Speaking to reporters at his Florida home yesterday if the United States should sanction Russia, Trump had this to say: "I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what's going on."

The sanctions put into place today could be reversed by Trump once he takes office, but to do so would put him in a position of defending Russia and possibly signal that he doesn't have confidence in the U.S.'s 17 intelligence agencies who all agree that Russia was involved.

Russia has consistently denied any involvement in the cyber-hacking activities.

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