Published: Fri, March 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

US Accuses Russia Of Hacking Operations, Imposes Sanctions

US Accuses Russia Of Hacking Operations, Imposes Sanctions

Mueller alleged that Russians set up a disinformation unit that spread propaganda and violated American election laws in 2016. Officials did not confirm exactly when the incursions occurred, but said they were removed immediately upon discovery.

The sanctions will also target Russian nationals and entities for cyber attacks on the USA energy grid along with other US based companies and persons.

In all, the new sanctions target 19 people and five organizations.

Since at least March 2016, the USA says, Russian government cyber-actors have targeted US government entities and critical infrastructure through a variety of penetration methods, including hoax emails.

MARTIN: Who exactly is being targeted with these sanctions?

The Trump administration waded more forcefully Thursday into Russia's dispute with the western world, imposing sanctions to punish election meddling and computer attacks on key infrastructure, and expressing solidarity with allies following a brazen chemical attack on British soil.

US national security officials also told reporters that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the Homeland Security Department and intelligence agencies, have concluded that Russian intelligence and other agencies were behind attacks on some parts of the USA energy sector, including grids, dams, and factories.

The Treasury Department said it would keep pressure on Russian Federation for its ongoing efforts to destabilize Ukraine and occupy the Crimea region, as well as corruption and human rights abuses.

The sanctions were also imposed for the role of Russian intelligence in distributing the NotPetya malware and ransomware which United States officials attributed to Moscow in February. The new measures, however delayed, amount to the most stringent punishment yet by Trump for Russia's election interference.

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Interestingly enough, the list of individuals and groups identified by Department of Treasury for punishment appears to have relied on the efforts of Robert Mueller's independent investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible ties to the Trump campaign - an inquiry the president has called a baseless "witch hunt".

Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for business documents, a source familiar with the matter told CNN on Thursday. I mean, is this the last that we can see for USA response to Russian Federation on this?

Officials stressed that the announced sanctions are not the only actions the USA government will take in response to Russian activity. He dismissed them nonetheless, saying they are part of a USA effort to destabilize Russia's presidential election on March 18. To date, officials said, the administration has sanctioned more than 100 individuals and entities under authorities specific to Ukraine and Russian Federation.

Speaking to the disinformation campaign that Russian Federation employed during the 2016 USA election, another senior national security official advised that propaganda disinformation campaigns "lose their effect if the American people are aware of foreign actors attempting to manipulate them".

Treasury's latest penalties "don't move the needle much", said Brian O'Toole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who previously worked in Treasury's sanctions unit.

Just hours before his surprise firing-via-Twitter, outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson broke with the administration on the issue, telling reporters traveling with him on an overseas trip that the poisoning attack "clearly came from Russia" and "certainly will trigger a response." "The United States can not stand by and watch the Russians use Ukraine as a cyber test range for destructive malware that then proliferates", said Rosenbach, now director of the Defending Digital Democracy Project at Harvard's Belfer Center.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment on the Times report about a subpoena, which was the first known time Mueller had demanded materials directly related to Trump's businesses.

In announcing the measures, the administration also disclosed a Russian attempt to penetrate the U.S. energy grid, and said the new sanctions would punish actors for their participation in other major cyberattacks.

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