23 March 2018

Obama is close to announce measures to punish Russia

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The Obama administration is close to announcing a series of measures to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, including economic sanctions and diplomatic censure, according to U.S. officials.

The administration is finalizing the details, which also are expected to include covert action that will probably involve cyber-operations, the officials said. An announcement on the public elements of the response could come as early as this week.

The sanctions portion of the package culminates weeks of debate in the White House on how to revise a 2015 executive order that was meant to give the president authority to respond to cyberattacks from overseas but that did not cover efforts to influence the electoral system.

The Obama administration rolled the executive order out to great fanfare as a way to punish and deter foreign hackers who harm U.S. economic or national security.

But officials concluded this fall that the order could not, as written, be used to punish the most significant cyber-provocation in recent memory against the United States — Russia’s hacking of Democratic organizations, targeting of state election systems and meddling in the presidential election.

With the clock ticking, the White House is working on adapting the authority to punish the Russians, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. President Obama pledged this month that there would be a response to Moscow’s interference in the U.S. elections.

Russia had denied involvement in the hacking.

One clear way to use the order against the Russian suspects would be to declare the electoral systems part of the “critical infrastructure” of the United States. Or the order could be amended to clearly apply to the new threat — interfering in elections.

2016.12.28 / 12:59
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