Obama Close To PUNISHING Russia For Alleged Election Hacks

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The Obama Administration is “close” to announcing exactly what they plan to do to “punish” Russia for their alleged interference in the November U.S. Presidential election.

Some of the retributions include more economic sanctions and an official “diplomatic censure,” whatever that is.

Details are being finalized, The Washington Post reports, but it is expected to include covert actions involving cyber-operations that will remain top secret. The announcement could come as early as next week.

The sanctions would stem from a 2015 executive order that gives the President authority to respond to cyber-attacks from overseas, but didn’t specifically address efforts to influence the election process. That order came after increased attacks from China and other adversaries and their constant hacking of American government and corporate institutions.

The threat to use the executive order two years ago wrung a pledge from China’s president that they would cease hacking U.S. companies to benefit Chinese owned companies.

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 has vehemently denied any involvement in the hacking.

One simple way to use the order against the Russians, The Post argues, is to simply declare the American electoral system as part of the “critical infrastructure” of the United States.

They’re also trying to figure out a way to make the punishment stick – so that a President-Elect Trump can’t just roll them back. Working with Congress and keeping them in the loop might be on way to do that, one senior officials said.

Obama issued the executive order in April 2015, creating the sanctions tool as a way to hold accountable people who harm computer systems related to critical functions such as electricity generation or transportation, or who gain a competitive advantage through the cyber­­theft of commercial secrets.

The order allows the government to freeze the assets in the United States of people overseas who have engaged in cyber-acts that have threatened U.S. national security or financial stability. The sanctions would also block commercial transactions with the designated individuals and bar their entry into the country.