Report Exposes Super-Secret CIA Memo on Putin
Washington Post takes in-depth look at US response to Russian hacking
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2017 9:38 AM CDT
Former President Obama in Baden-Baden, Germany, Thursday, May 25, 2017.   (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
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(Newser) – The Washington Post takes an in-depth look at how the US investigation into Russian hacking of the 2016 election unfolded, with a particular focus on the Obama administration's response. It includes a damning quote from an anonymous former Obama official: "It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked." The story begins with a key moment in early August: the arrival of a super-secret CIA memo at the White House asserting that Vladimir Putin had given his tech minions "specific instructions" to damage Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. (Only Obama and three senior aides were authorized to see the memo.) Thus began months of debate on how to respond, with Obama eventually settling on the expulsion of 35 diplomats and what the newspaper calls "largely symbolic" economic sanctions.

The Post also reveals that Obama ordered a covert response as well: "planting cyber weapons in Russia’s infrastructure, the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow." It's not clear if the effort, still being planned as Obama left office, went through under President Trump. So why didn't Obama respond more aggressively? The article suggests he was worried about making things worse; the hacking to that point (planting fake stories online, getting into Democratic emails, etc.) was not believed to have had a serious effect on the election, but Obama feared going after Putin would prompt him to launch a more severe cyber assault on Election Day. That didn't happen, and the Obama administration thinks Obama's in-person warning to Putin ("stop or else") kept him in check. Click for the full article.

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