CIA preparing cyber retaliation against Russia

The Obama administration is contemplating retaliation against Russia for hacking American political organizations. The CIA is preparing several options for the president to consider - all of them unprecedented.

NBCNews:

The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation say the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging "clandestine" cyber operation designed to harass and "embarrass" the Kremlin leadership.

The sources did not elaborate on the exact measures the CIA was considering, but said the agency had already begun opening cyber doors, selecting targets and making other preparations for an operation. Former intelligence officers told NBC News that the agency had gathered reams of documents that could expose unsavory tactics by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Vice President Joe Biden told "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd on Friday that "we're sending a message" to Putin and that "it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact."

When asked if the American public will know a message was sent, the vice president replied, "Hope not."

Retired Admiral James Stavridis told NBC News' Cynthia McFadden that the U.S. should attack Russia's ability to censor its internal internet traffic and expose the financial dealings of Putin and his associates.

"It's well known that there's great deal of offshore money moved outside of Russia from oligarchs," he said. "It would be very embarrassing if that was revealed, and that would be a proportional response to what we've seen" in Russia's alleged hacks and leaks targeting U.S. public opinion.

Sean Kanuck, who was until this spring the senior U.S. intelligence official responsible for analyzing Russian cyber capabilities, said not mounting a response would carry a cost.

"If you publicly accuse someone," he said, "and don't follow it up with a responsive action, that may weaken the credible threat of your response capability."

President Obama will ultimately have to decide whether he will authorize a CIA operation. Officials told NBC News that for now there are divisions at the top of the administration about whether to proceed.

Given that Putin has a stranglehold on the media in Russia, anything we might expose that would embarrass the Russian president wouldn't harm his standing with the Russian people.

But  an attack on Putin personally would hit him where it would hurt him the most: His pride. Given that, Putin would be eager to exact some kind of revenge, whether on American institutions or Obama himself.

If the past is any indication, the president will dither for a few months hoping the problem goes away and then finally come up with something too weak and too late. And with any retaliation, the president threatens to get us in a tit for tat situation where both sides escalate the severity of their attacks until the cost for one side or the other could lead to a shooting war.

The president is playing a dangerous game while not possessing Putin's ruthlessness to see the task done; deter Russia from any further cyber mischief.

The Obama administration is contemplating retaliation against Russia for hacking American political organizations. The CIA is preparing several options for the president to consider - all of them unprecedented.

NBCNews:

The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation say the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging "clandestine" cyber operation designed to harass and "embarrass" the Kremlin leadership.

The sources did not elaborate on the exact measures the CIA was considering, but said the agency had already begun opening cyber doors, selecting targets and making other preparations for an operation. Former intelligence officers told NBC News that the agency had gathered reams of documents that could expose unsavory tactics by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Vice President Joe Biden told "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd on Friday that "we're sending a message" to Putin and that "it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact."

When asked if the American public will know a message was sent, the vice president replied, "Hope not."

Retired Admiral James Stavridis told NBC News' Cynthia McFadden that the U.S. should attack Russia's ability to censor its internal internet traffic and expose the financial dealings of Putin and his associates.

"It's well known that there's great deal of offshore money moved outside of Russia from oligarchs," he said. "It would be very embarrassing if that was revealed, and that would be a proportional response to what we've seen" in Russia's alleged hacks and leaks targeting U.S. public opinion.

Sean Kanuck, who was until this spring the senior U.S. intelligence official responsible for analyzing Russian cyber capabilities, said not mounting a response would carry a cost.

"If you publicly accuse someone," he said, "and don't follow it up with a responsive action, that may weaken the credible threat of your response capability."

President Obama will ultimately have to decide whether he will authorize a CIA operation. Officials told NBC News that for now there are divisions at the top of the administration about whether to proceed.

Given that Putin has a stranglehold on the media in Russia, anything we might expose that would embarrass the Russian president wouldn't harm his standing with the Russian people.

But  an attack on Putin personally would hit him where it would hurt him the most: His pride. Given that, Putin would be eager to exact some kind of revenge, whether on American institutions or Obama himself.

If the past is any indication, the president will dither for a few months hoping the problem goes away and then finally come up with something too weak and too late. And with any retaliation, the president threatens to get us in a tit for tat situation where both sides escalate the severity of their attacks until the cost for one side or the other could lead to a shooting war.

The president is playing a dangerous game while not possessing Putin's ruthlessness to see the task done; deter Russia from any further cyber mischief.