For fear of retaliation from the alleged Russian tampering in the American presidential election, the Obama administration is equipping for possible covert cyber activities. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials have told NBC News of their direct knowledge on the situation. The CIA has been tasked with delivering to the White House various options for “clandestine” cyber operations aimed to harass and “embarrass” the Kremlin leadership. Although no details were provided, sources have confirmed that the agency has already started selecting targets, opening cyber doors and making other preparations. Traditionally, the NSA is the center for American digital spying, but due to the covert nature of the task, the CIA’s Information Operations Center (IOC) will take the lead and work alongside NSA and Pentagon specialized analysts.
This is not the first time the CIA has been appointed with such a task. Two former officers, who worked on Russia, explained that there is a long history of the White House asking for options for covert action against Russia. But missions were never carried out based on political decisions. Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell expressed skepticism on an extensive attack against Russian networks: the U.S. does not want to set a precedent for other countries to do the same against them. But, general consensus of the intelligence community is that unless the U.S. stands up to cyber-attacks from Russia, “we’ll only see more and more of it in the future.” One former officer said that we need “to remind them that two can play at this game and we have a lot of stuff.”
Vice President Joe Biden reassures the nation at “Meet the Press” that a message will be sent to Putin and that “it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact.”