A “clandestine” cyber attack on Russia is reportedly being prepared by the CIA, in retaliation for its alleged meddling in US elections aimed at eroding support for Hillary Clinton.
NBC News reported that intelligence officials confirmed the “wide-ranging operation” was meant to “embarrass” pres. Vladimir Putin. The Obama administration’s “unprecedented cyber covert action” against Russia has already opened cyber doors and selected targets.
Vice President Joe Biden said during an interview with “Meet the Press” on Friday that the US would be “sending a message” to Putin and that could happen at any time, “under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact”.
A former CIA deputy director Michael Morell expressed his skepticism, saying a covert attack on Russian networks would invite counter strikes.
“Physical attacks on networks is not something the US wants to do because we don’t want to set a precedent for other countries to do it as well, including against us,” he told NBC. “My own view is that our response shouldn’t be covert — it should overt, for everybody to see.”
Officials told NBC News that top officials are divided over the issue.
A second former US intelligence operative familiar with Russia, told NBC that recent covert options were not “particularly good, nor did we think that any of them would be particularly effective”.
Putin is largely beyond embarrassing, he said, and anything the US can do against say, a Russian bank account, the Russian can do in response.
A CIA’s cyber operation by a team within the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence is being set up, documents indicate. A budget worth of hundreds of millions of dollars has been allocated to the effort.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the claims of Russia interfering in the US presidential election as “ridiculous”.
“It’s flattering, of course, to get this kind of attention – for a regional power, as President Obama called us some time ago,” Lavrov said in an interview with CNN. “Now everybody in the United States is saying that it is Russia which is running the [US] presidential debate,” he said, adding, “we have not seen a single fact, a single proof.”
Responding to Washington’s official accusations on October 7, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov called it “yet another fit of nonsense,” saying that “tens of thousands of hackers” have tried to break into Russian official sites, without Moscow blaming the US.
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