Former President Barack Obama authorized “planting cyberweapons” in Russian infrastructure before he left office in response to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a Washington Post report Friday.
The project was not completed and still in its planning stages when Obama left the White House in January, the Post reported. And as a result, President Trump would have to decide whether to use the weapons.
The Post described the project as “the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow.”
The Hill added:
“The report said the CIA sent Obama and three other top aides a top-secret message in early August detailing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton and generally disrupt the U.S. election.
The intel came shortly after the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails that caused embarrassment for Clinton.”
After finding out about the intelligence in August, Obama decided he did not want to “make things worse,” the Post reported. His administration thought that taking action “could provoke an escalation from Putin” or “be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign.” Trump made claims at the time that the election was “rigged.”
In a statement, Obama senior advisor Eric Schultz said he took Russian meddling “very seriously.”
“This situation was taken extremely seriously, as is evident by President Obama raising this issue directly with President Putin; 17 intelligence agencies issuing an extraordinary public statement; our homeland security officials working relentlessly to bolster the cyber defenses of voting infrastructure around the country; the President directing a comprehensive intelligence review, and ultimately issuing a robust response including shutting down two Russian compounds, sanctioning nine Russian entities and individuals, and ejecting 35 Russian diplomats from the country,” Schultz said in a statement.
The Obama administration reportedly considered a number of responses to Russia’s attack on U.S. democracy, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, but eventually approved sanctions against Russia, which were unveiled in December. However, they were “so narrowly targeted that even those who helped design them describe their impact as largely symbolic,” according to the Post.