Response to Russian Cyber-Espionage

Cyber-security has become arguably the most serious challenge to face the nation in a very long time. The conclusions the American intelligence community have come to regarding the hacking of the Democratic National Committee during the election implicating the Russians, most probably all the way up to Putin, are the latest signal of difficult times ahead.

President Obama’s earlier statements in response to the intelligence reports indicated a strong response was necessary and now with three official executive actions we see some of the specific details of that response. Undoubtedly, more covert actions are also in the works, but they may never be known. If they are eventually revealed, it will be many years from now when they are no longer relevant to national security.

In some ways I find this humorous. For whatever reasons, I am reminded of the 1960’s Mad Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy cartoons when I think about the ongoing spy activity everyone in the world knows goes on, even among our so called friends. Collection of intelligence has gone on ever since humans developed any kind of society. In this most recent case, it feels like yet another swing of the pendulum and the Russians are the ones with the egg on face this time. Putin’s choice not to expel American diplomats might be a tacit admission of that, or it may just be cover for significant clandestine operations in the never ending tit-for-tat.

I am sobered quickly, however, by thinking about the potential for a complete dismantling of the uniquely American democratic republic. The president-elect’s dismissal of the intelligence reports and downplaying of the accusation of Russian involvement (supported by several elected members of Congress) are enough to remind us this is serious business.

Fortunately, this issue is extremely high profile in the national and international news. There is no doubt internationally of the seriousness of the infraction and how important it is to respond forcefully. Unfortunately, a number of partisan hacks claim it is being blown out of proportion, but I suspect most of them have no clue how their response is aiding and abetting the Russian activity. Once again, authoritarianism rears its ugly head.

Three documents posted on the White House website detail the actions to be taken.

  • Executive Order — Taking Additional Steps to Address the National Emergency with Respect to Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities

This is actually an updating of an earlier Executive Order (13694 of April 1, 2015) amending it to add Russian owned properties and individual Russians to that order.

  • Annex to Executive Order — Taking Additional Steps to Address the National Emergency with Respect to Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities

The annex referred to in the Executive Order is a brief document listing the five specific entities and four individuals affected by the order.

  • Letter from the President — Taking Additional Steps to Address the National Emergency with Respect to Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities

The letter is to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate reporting the action of the Executive Order as required by law.

All three documents were posted December 29, 2016. The Executive Order took effect at 12:01 a.m. December 29.

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