White House announces retaliation against Russia for election hacking

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President Barack Obama took unprecedented steps retaliating against what the administration described as "Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities," including sanctioning six Russian individuals and five Russian entities as well as ordering Russian diplomats to leave the country. File- President Obama speaks at the White House

President Barack Obama took unprecedented steps Thursday retaliating against what the administration described as “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities,” including sanctioning six Russian individuals and five Russian entities as well as ordering Russian diplomats to leave the country.

This is the first time the names of Russian officials involved in the hacking have become public on the sanctions list.

Obama also said in a separate statement that 35 Russian diplomats have been ordered to leave the country, and two Russian compounds are being closed under Thursday’s actions.

A White House statement described the consensus from the Intelligence Community that Russia’s meddling in US elections via cyberhacking as “unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

“Russia’s cyberactivities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in US democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the US government,” the statement said. “These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

According to statements from the White House and the Treasury Department, the government has sanctioned nine entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s operations; and two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.

Two of the individuals on the sanctions list, Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev and Alexey Belan, are on the FBI wanted list as well.

Obama also said in the statement announcing that the diplomats have been ordered to leave the country, that those individuals and their families were given 72 hours to leave the United States.

“These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” Obama said in the statement.

Russia’s reaction

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier this month it was “indecent” of the United States to “groundlessly” accuse Russia of intervention in the US election campaign, Russian state news agency Tass reported.

“They should either stop talking about that or produce some proof at last. Otherwise it all begins to look unseemly,” Peskov reportedly said about the latest accusations that Russia was responsible for hacker attacks.

Russia will respond to any “hostile steps” that the US may take in response to allegations of hacking during the 2016 election, according to the official representative for the ministry.

Russia’s embassy in the UK tweeted that Obama’s actions were “Cold War deja vu” described the administration as “hapless.”

Congressional Republicans split with Trump

President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday that Americans should “get on with our lives” when he was asked about the expected White House announcement to place sanctions on Russia.

“I think we ought to get on with our lives,” he told reporters Wednesday night at the Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida. “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.”

Trump’s statement splits with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, called the sanctions “overdue,” adding that it is an “appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia.”

“Russia does not share America’s interests,” he said in a statement Thursday. “In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world. While today’s action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia. And it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a statement on Thursday reiterating the agency’s confidence that the Russian government was involved in the US hacking.

“This activity by Russian intelligence services is part of a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the US Government and its citizens,” the statement read. “The US Government can confirm that the Russian government, including Russia’s civilian and military intelligence services, conducted many of the activities generally described by a number of these security companies.”

Months of internal debate

The administration’s announcement comes after months of internal debate over how to respond to Russian hacking that US law enforcement and intelligence agencies have watched take place for over a year.

The US government announced in October that it was “confident” that the Russian government orchestrated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations of the Democratic Party to influence the 2016 election.

Those hacks resulted in the public release of thousands of stolen emails, many of which included damaging revelations about the Democratic Party and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the party’s nominee.

The hacking of DNC emails eventually led to the resignation of former chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz after emails showed her favoring Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary.

Earlier this month, the CIA announced to a group of senators that the hacks were aimed to help elect Trump as president.