Sweep­ing re­tal­i­a­tion

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Missy Ryan, Ellen Nakashima and Karen DeYoung

Sanc­tions: Two Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence ser­vices (the GRU and the FSB); four in­di­vid­ual of­fi­cers of the GRU; and three com­pa­nies face puni­tive mea­sures.

Ex­pelled: 35 Rus­sian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials from the Rus­sian Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and the Rus­sian Con­sulate in San Francisco are de­clared “per­sona non grata.”

Pro­hib­ited: As of noon Fri­day, Rus­sian ac­cess will be de­nied to two Rus­sian gov­ern­ment-owned com­pounds – one in Mary­land and one in New York.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced sweep­ing new mea­sures against Rus­sia on Thurs­day in re­tal­i­a­tion for what U.S. of­fi­cials have char­ac­ter­ized as in­ter­fer­ence in this fall’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, or­der­ing the ex­pul­sion of Rus­sian “in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tives” and slap­ping new sanc­tions on state agen­cies and in­di­vid­u­als sus­pected in the hacks of U.S. com­puter sys­tems.

The re­sponse, un­veiled just weeks be­fore Obama leaves of­fice, cul­mi­nates months of in­ter­nal de­bate over how to re­act to Rus­sia’s elec­tion-year provo­ca­tions. In re­cent months, the FBI and CIA have con­cluded that Rus­sia in­ter­vened re­peat­edly in the 2016 elec­tion, leak­ing dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion in an at­tempt to un­der­mine the elec­toral process and help Don­ald Trump take the White House.

Be­cause Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment is an ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion, it can be un­done by the next ad­min­is­tra­tion. But Obama’s last-minute mea­sures put pres­sure on Trump, who has largely waved off the al­le­ga­tions against Rus­sia, to make a de­ci­sion about whether to keep the puni­tive mea­sures in place.

In a state­ment is­sued by his tran­si­tion of­fice late Thurs­day, Trump was non­com­mit­tal, say­ing, “It’s time for our coun­try to move on to big­ger and bet­ter things.”

“Nev­er­the­less,” he said, “in the in­ter­est of our coun­try and its great peo­ple, I will meet with lead­ers of the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity next week in or­der to be up­dated on the facts of this sit­u­a­tion.”

Taken to­gether, the sanc­tions and ex­pul­sions an­nounced Thurs­day were the most far-reach­ing U.S. re­sponse to Rus­sian ac­tiv­i­ties since the end of the Cold War, and the most spe­cific re­lated to Rus­sian hack­ing. The ad­min­is­tra­tion also re­leased a list­ing of ad­dresses of com­put­ers linked to the Rus­sian

cy­ber­at­tacks and sam­ples of mal­ware in­serted into U.S. sys­tems.

Sev­eral law­mak­ers have called on the ad­min­is­tra­tion for months to re­spond, say­ing that tougher mea­sures need to be taken to pun­ish Rus­sia. The White House re­sisted act­ing ahead of the elec­tion for fear of ap­pear­ing par­ti­san.

Obama, who had promised a tough U.S. re­sponse, said the new ac­tions were “a nec­es­sary and ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse to ef­forts to harm U.S. in­ter­ests.” He said Amer­i­cans should be “alarmed” by an ar­ray of Rus­sian moves, in­clud­ing in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion and ha­rass­ment of U.S. diplo­mats over­seas.

“Such ac­tiv­i­ties have con­se­quences,” the pres­i­dent said in a state­ment.

The new mea­sures in­clude sanc­tions on two Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, three com­pa­nies that are be­lieved to have pro­vided sup­port for gov­ern­ment cy­ber­op­er­a­tions, and four Rus­sian cy­ber of­fi­cials. The two agen­cies named are the GRU, Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary spy ser­vice, and the FSB, the civil­ian spy agency that grew out of the KGB.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has also or­dered 35 Rus­sian op­er­a­tives to leave the United States and will shut down Rus­sian-owned fa­cil­i­ties on Mary­land’s East­ern Shore and on Long Is­land in New York be­lieved to have been used for in­tel­li­gence pur­poses.

State De­part­ment spokesper­son Mark Toner said the diplo­matic re­tal­i­a­tion was partly a re­sponse to Rus­sian provo­ca­tions against Amer­i­can per­son­nel in Rus­sia, in­clud­ing “ar­bi­trary po­lice stops, phys­i­cal as­sault, and the broad­cast on State TV of per­sonal de­tails about our per­son­nel that put them at risk.”

In June, a se­nior U.S. diplo­mat was at­tacked by a Rus­sian sol­dier at the door­way to the U.S. em­bassy as he tried to en­ter. That in­ci­dent, cir­cu­lated on video, re­sulted in the ear­lier ex­pul­sion of two Rus­sian diplo­mats from Wash­ing­ton.

Obama sug­gested Thurs­day that the United States may un­der­take covert ac­tiv­ity in re­sponse to Rus­sian ac­tiv­i­ties. Of­fi­cials gave no de­tails. The Trea­sury De­part­ment also des­ig­nated two Rus­sian hack­ers, Evgeny Bo­gachev and Alek­sey Be­lan, for crim­i­nal cy­ber ac­tiv­i­ties in­volv­ing U.S. firms and un­re­lated to the elec­tion hacks.

Trump has called on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to present proof of Rus­sian hack­ing. Speak­ing Thurs­day be­fore the reprisal an­nounce­ment, Sean Spicer, the in­com­ing White House press sec­re­tary, said Trump’s views on the hack­ing al­le­ga­tions could change if more solid ev­i­dence emerges that Rus­sia was re­spon­si­ble.

“If the United States has clear proof of any­one in­ter­fer­ing with our elec­tions, we should make that known,” Spicer said, adding, “Right now we need to see fur­ther facts.”

U.S. of­fi­cials say they have been re­fin­ing for months their as­sess­ment of the at­tacks, in which they say a Rus­sian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence agency hacked the Demo­cratic National Com­mit­tee and stole emails that were later re­leased by Wik­iLeaks. Emails hacked from the ac­count of John Podesta, who chaired Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, also were made pub­lic. State elec­toral sys­tems were also tar­geted, but ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said Thurs­day, as they have in the past, that they have no ev­i­dence the ac­tual vot­ing process was in­ter­fered with on Elec­tion Day.

In a call with re­porters, U.S. of­fi­cials said they chose to an­nounce the new mea­sures be­fore the end of Obama’s term in an at­tempt to ed­u­cate Amer­i­cans about Rus­sian ac­tiv­i­ties and to de­ter fu­ture in­tru­sions.

“There’s ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve Rus­sia will in­ter­fere with fu­ture U.S. elec­tions and fu­ture elec­tions around the world,” said one se­nior of­fi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak on the record.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion also re­leased a doc­u­ment pro­vid­ing some de­tails about the cy­ber op­er­a­tion U.S. of­fi­cials have la­beled “Griz­zly Steppe,” in­clud­ing a list of names the hack­ers used.

Con­gres­sional Re­pub­li­cans wel­comed the crack­down but said it was over­due.

“It is an ap­pro­pri­ate way to end eight years of failed pol­icy with Rus­sia,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a state­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.