Is the U.S. planning a cyber attack against Russia? That is the question on everyone’s mind following an NBC News report that emerged on Saturday. The report claimed that the Obama administration, with the help of the CIA, is planning an “unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia.” The report goes on to say that the cyber attack against Russian is in “retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election.” NBC News claims that this information was revealed to them by senior U.S. intelligence officials. An excerpt from the report read the following.
“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.”
At this time, there is no information pertaining to the actual nature of these cyber attacks. However, sources seem to have indicated that the attack may involve “opening cyber doors, selecting targets and making other preparations for an operation.” The sources have also said that the CIA has gotten hold of several incriminating documents that will expose the tactics used by incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, following the revelation by NBC News, there is also a possibility that the CIA and the Obama administration may defer or completely cancel the attacks.
This report of a possible “clandestine” cyber attack against Russia comes less than a week after the White House confirmed that President Barack Obama was weighing a “proportional response” to Moscow. At the time, White House Spokesman John Earnest had informed that the president was still deciding on “response options.” He had also indicated that details pertaining to the response options may probably not be announced in advance or may never be disclosed.
Meanwhile, opinion seems to be divided within the Obama administration regarding the kind of measures that need to be taken against Russia with several people from within the administration of the opinion that now is not the right time for retaliatory action. There are also concerns regarding a similar response from Russia, according to a former CIA officer who has decades of experience working on Russia-related affairs. In an interview with NBC News, the unidentified CIA officer said this.
“If someone has decided, ‘we’ve had enough of the Russians,’ there is a lot we can do. Step one is to remind them that two can play at this game and we have a lot of stuff. Step two, if you are looking to mess with their networks, we can do that, but then the issue becomes, they can do worse things to us in other places.”
Meanwhile, several other sources have confirmed that it was an extremely unusual move for the White House to ask the CIA for taking anti-Russian measures. The same source, however, went on to reveal that the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence has a team of “hundreds and a budget in the hundreds of millions,” indicating that should the need arise, the CIA can launch cyber attacks against anyone – including Russia.
The possibility of such a cyber attack has also strengthened following a recent statement by Vice President Joe Biden who reportedly said that the U.S. is “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.”
Following reports of a possible cyber attack against Russian, WikiLeaks has tweeted out its doubts and said that it does not believe the U.S. is serious about any “clandestine” cyberwar on Russia.
Meanwhile, there have been several allegations against WikiLeaks leveled by media outlets in the U.S. who believe that WikiLeaks is, in fact, working along with the Kremlin and that many of its materials are in fact being provided by the Russians. Both Russia and WikiLeaks have dismissed the allegations. Earlier in the week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov laughed off at allegations that Russia is trying interfere in the U.S. presidential election – calling the accusations as “ridiculous.”
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