A ‘clandestine’ and wide-ranged cyber operation against the Russian government may be prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by request of the Obama administration.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has received a task from the Obama administration to prepare a ‘clandestine’ and wide-ranged cyber operation against the Russian government in order to embarrass Russian President Vladimir Putin and high-ranking Kremlin leaders, NBC News reported, citing its own unnamed sources.
“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,” the report reads.
Reportedly, the White House intends to hold such an operation, the severity of which would match the severity of alleged Russian hacking.
For example, an attack on the Russian power grid would be ‘too loud response’ and could set a dangerous precedent, threatening with similar attacks in the US by Russians. In this way, an operation, designed to discredit Putin in the eyes of the Russian public, most likely, will take place.
“While the National Security Agency is the center for American digital spying, the CIA is the lead agency for covert action and has its own cyber capabilities. It sometimes brings in the NSA and the Pentagon to help…” the article continues.
According one former intelligence officer, a large cache of documents, which expose the “unsavory tactics” of Putin, had been collected. Meanwhile, retired Admiral James Stavridis noted that future attacks could be aimed at Russia’s ability to censor online content concerning “the financial dealings of Putin and his associates.”
However, the former CIA officers also pointed out that it still remains unclear whether or not such an operation will be carried out, especially in the light of administration’s history of abandoning covert action against Russia.
“We’ve always hesitated to use a lot of stuff we’ve had, but that’s a political decision,” one former officer said. “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.”
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell also expressed similar doubts and said that it was unlikely Russian networks would be attacked by the US.
“Physical attacks on networks is not something the U.S. wants to do because we don’t want to set a precedent for other countries to do it as well, including against us,” Morell said. “My own view is that our response shouldn’t be covert – it should overt, for everybody to see.”
Last Friday, Russia was officially blamed by the Obama administration for political hacks, involving the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations.