U.S. Expected To Announce Measures Against Russia Over Election Hacking
RFE/RL December 29, 2016
U.S. media report that the United States will soon announce retaliatory measures against Russia for allegedly leaking hacked U.S. Democratic e-mails during the presidential campaign in what the CIA and others believe was an effort to help Donald Trump win the election.
The measures could include targeted economic sanctions, indictments of known hackers, restrictions on Russian diplomats, as well as covert leaks of embarrassing information about Russian officials, media outlets including Reuters and The Washington Post reported, citing unidentified U.S. officials.
Some reports said an announcement is expected on December 29.
Officials said the moves will be on par with Russia's own alleged hacking ventures so as to avoid the possibility of a cyberconflict spinning out of control.
The FBI, CIA, and the Office of Director of National Intelligence agree that Russia was behind the hacking into the U.S. Democratic Party organizations ahead of the November 8 presidential election.
The CIA has concluded the hacks and leaks were aimed to help Trump, a Republican, defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
President-elect Trump has suggested he doubts Russia interfered, despite the broad agreement in the U.S. intelligence community that it did.
Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and Democrat Amy Klobuchar, who are on a trip to the Baltic states, Ukraine, Georgia, and Montenegro, said that Russia should expect a tough U.S. response over the hacking.
Graham said on December 28 that "bipartisan sanctions...will hit Russia hard, particularly Putin as an individual."
"I would say that 99 of [the 100 U.S. senators] believe the Russians did this and we're going to do something about it," Graham said.
He said that Russia "is trying to break the back of democracies all around the world."
"It is now time for Russia to understand -- enough is enough," Graham told reporters.
Trump seemed to suggest the United States should not impose new sanctions on Russia. Asked about Graham's remarks, he told reporters: "I think we ought to get on with our lives."
President Barack Obama said recently that "we need to take action and we will" against Russia for interfering in the U.S. election.
According to the Reuters news agency, Obama may choose to invoke an April 2015 executive order that empowered him to impose sanctions in response to cyberattacks perpetrated by foreign groups targeting U.S. infrastructure or done for economic purposes.
Reuters quoted an unnamed U.S. government official as saying one option would be leaking material on Russian officials or actions that Washington already has obtained in a way that would "parallel what the Russians did, but be impossible to prove."
According to Reuters, another option would be new, tougher economic sanctions against Russia. Washington has already imposed sanctions on Moscow over its seziure of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and its involvement in the war between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian government forces, which has killed more than 9,750 people since the conflict began in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.
However, according to Peter Harrell, a former senior State Department official, Washington is still unlikely to impose blanket embargoes against Russia because of the danger it could harm the economies of Western Europe.
Harrell, who worked on sanctions policy, said the United States may instead target specific Russian intelligence officials or military divisions believed to be involved in the cyberintrusions.
"The Russian defense sector would be fair game," Reuters quoted Harrell as saying.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, asked about reports of U.S. retaliation, said on December 28 that Russia would respond in kind to any measures announced by the White House.
Based on reporting by Reuters, MSNBC, The Washington Post, CNN, BBC, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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