Report: Obama team repeatedly downplayed rogue states’ cyber attacks

by WorldTribune Staff, December 13, 2016

After eight years of all but ignoring cyber attacks on U.S. interests by Russia, China and North Korea, President Barack Obama now has ordered a full investigation into alleged Russian cyber meddling in the 2016 election.

“Any intelligence review should coincide with a companion investigation by Congress into why the president and his White House advisers for the past eight years rejected numerous calls from military, intelligence, and national security advisers to take aggressive action against states like Russia and China — action that could have prevented the kind of covert cyber warfare now being linked to Moscow,” Bill Gertz wrote for the Washington Free Beacon on Dec. 13.

'The United States under Obama has been disarmed against Russian, Chinese, and other nations’ cyber gunslingers.' /AP
‘The United States under Obama has been disarmed against Russian, Chinese, and other nations’ cyber gunslingers.’ /AP

Obama downplayed such attacks as North Korea’s hack against Sony Pictures Entertainment and the massive Chinese cyber attacks on the Office of Personnel Management that reportedly reached almost all U.S. government employees and contractors.

“The president also never invoked a presidential directive calling for economic sanctions on state sponsors of cyber attacks,” Gertz wrote.

In a September discussion on cyber security, Obama said that the political attacks were nothing new, noting there have been “problems” with Russian cyber attacks in the past. The president said taking retaliatory cyber action could trigger a wider cyber war.

“What we cannot do is have a situation where this becomes the wild, wild West, where countries that have significant cyber capacity start engaging in unhealthy competition or conflict through these means,” he said.

“The United States under Obama has been disarmed against Russian, Chinese, and other nations’ cyber gunslingers, who are conducting asymmetric warfare with little or no penalty,” Gertz wrote. “The weakness of the U.S. government response will continue to provoke more and increasingly damaging cyber attacks unless there is a change in policy that imposes costs — either by carrying out counter-cyber attacks or other asymmetric warfare means to confront the dangers.”

Gertz continued: “A U.S. intelligence official told me that over a period of months beginning in August 2011 several major interagency meetings were held to discuss the escalating danger of cyber attacks against the United States.”

The intel official said Obama and his top aides were presented with “tens” of options to counter and deter cyber attacks by the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, and Iranians.

“Most of them were shelved, sent to what was called ‘the parking lot,’ ” said the official. “They were considered too aggressive and Obama responded that he would not engage in those types of activities.”

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