Obama issues new sanctions against Russia, ejects 35 Russian diplomats over election-related hacking
President Obama issued new sanctions against Russia on Thursday, calling Russia’s “malicious cyber-related activities” a “national emergency” aimed at undermining “democratic processes.”
He also ordered that 35 Russian diplomats be ejected from the United States and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to “Russian harrassment of American diplomats” in Moscow.
The diplomats will be given 72 hours to leave the US, according to Reuters.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” Obama said in a statement, noting that Russia’s “data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.”
Moreover, Obama said, “our diplomats have an unacceptable level of harrassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year. Such activities have consequences.”
Obama sanctioned nine entities and individuals linked to Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency, GRU, and Russia’s primary security agency, FSB. Four individual, high-ranking officers of the GRU were also sanctioned, as were three companies provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.
Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike linked the hacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) back to the GRU earlier this month.
The Treasury also designated two Russian individuals “for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.”
He also ordered that the Russian compounds, used “for intelligence-related purposes,” be closed, and that technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence cyber activity be declassified to help the US “identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.”
Obama’s executive order comes just over two months afterthe US intelligence community first accused the Russian government of orchestrating a series of cyberattacks on US citizens and political organizations, stating that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
“The US Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations,” the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement at the time.
The CIA, meanwhile, waited until after the election to put forward an independent assessment of Russian meddling, the content of which was leaked to the press earlier this month via high-level officials briefed on the intelligence.
In it, the CIA said the Russians had been working toward a specific goal when they hacked into the inboxes of Democratic National Committee staffers and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta: “to help get Trump elected.”
This summer, the leak of internal Democratic National Committee email correspondences revealing a bias against Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — by WikiLeaks, an organization founded by Julian Assange — divided the American left and led to the resignation of the DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The CIA report said the Russians had also breached the Republican National Committeebut chose not to release any of the information, lending credence to the idea that the Kremlin made a specific and targeted effort to embarrass Democrats.
Obama ordered the intelligence community to conduct a full reviewinto the Russian hacking campaign, and how it may have affected the presidential election, soon after the CIA report was leaked.
‘I think we ought to get on with our lives’
President-elect Trump has downplayed reports that Russia was responsible for the hacks, however, or that the hacks had any impact on the presidential election. On Wednesday, the President-elect told reporters in West Palm Beach that “I think we ought to get on with our lives.”
“I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly,” he said. “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said that the sanctions were “overdue” and “appropriate”.
“Russia does not share American interests,” Ryan said in a statement that appeared to put him at odds with Trump, who has expressed a desire to work more closely with Russia during his administration.
“In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability throughout 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,” Ryan continued. “And it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign polict that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.”