Donald Trump may not be convinced that Russia is behind recent cyber-attacks on American political organizations. But the CIA does, and the intelligence agency is preparing to hit back – hard.
The White House has reportedly asked the CIA to prepare “options” for retaliation against Moscow for its alleged interference in the Presidential election. US intelligence agencies believe their Russian counterparts hacked into the email systems of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign and leaked embarrassing messages.
While details of those options are scarce, the agency has apparently begun laying the groundwork to penetrate key Russian internet networks, possibly with the intention of releasing information that would embarrass the Kremlin leadership, including President Vladimir Putin. NBC News reported that the CIA has already reaped a trove of documents that would further smudge Putin’s less-than-sterling international reputation.
Vice President Joe Biden recently told NBC’s Meet the Press that “we’re sending a message” to Russia and the cyber counter-punch will come “at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact.”
One timing consideration: Sending that message in time to prevent the Russians from even thinking about messing with our November 8th elections.
But intelligence experts say the Obama administration has on several previous occasions asked for similar attack plans and failed to follow through. While everyone agrees that making empty threats is bad long-term policy, there are some good reasons for thinking twice before getting into the digital mud with the Russians. Yes, it’s important to fight back when threatened and to demonstrate our own cyber-warfare capabilities. But, the fact is, anything we do to the Russians, they can probably do to us. So, if we crash their banking computers, for example, you and I might one day find that none of our local ATMs are operating – courtesy of Putin.
Some of those who oppose the cyber-counter punch believe the US would be better served by retaliating openly with traditional measures, such as economic sanctions. This approach would put America on the high road and avoid a potentially costly cyber-tit-for-tat. What’s more, according to one intelligence expert who spoke to NBC, there is little evidence leaking Kremlin secrets would be an effective counter-measure, given that Putin and the Russian oligarchs are already held in such low esteem.
Whatever the course, I firmly believe we need to punish the Russians for their recent actions. America’s sovereignty must never be infringed upon, and that’s exactly what’s happening if Russia has indeed mucked about in our political process. I leave it to the experts to decide how to punch back, and I look forward to the day that happens.
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