The Obama White House chief cyber official testified Wednesday that proposals he was developing to counter Russia’s attack on the U.S. presidential election were put on a “back burner” after he was ordered to “stand down” his efforts in the summer of 2016.
EDITOR’S STORY: In a bombshell admission by Obama’s former Cyber Security Chief, Michael Daniel, that was ignored by virtually all of the fake news media, it was revealed that then president Barack Obama issued a ‘stand down’ order after Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential Election was discovered. Hey, Robert Mueller, you can stop your phony witch hunt of President Trump, we now know for a fact who actually is guilty of Russian collusion. It’s Barack Obama. Donald Trump had this right a year ago. So, now that we know who actually colluded with Russia, is anyone going to bring in the man from Kenya for questioning? No, they are not.
The comments by Michael Daniel, who served as White House “cyber security coordinator” between 2012 and January of last year, provided his first public confirmation of a much-discussed passage in the book, “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” co-written by this reporter and David Corn, that detailed his thwarted efforts to respond to the Russian attack.
They came during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing into how the Obama administration dealt with Russian cyber and information warfare attacks in 2016, an issue that has become one of the more politically sensitive subjects in the panel’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and any links to the Trump campaign.
The view that the Obama administration failed to adequately piece together intelligence about the Russian campaign and develop a forceful response has clearly gained traction with the intelligence committee. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the ranking Democrat on the panel, said in an opening statement that “we were caught flat-footed at the outset and our collective response was inadequate to meet Russia’s escalation.”
That conclusion was reinforced Wednesday by another witness, Victoria Nuland, who served as assistant secretary of state for Europe during the Obama administration. She told the panel that she had been briefed as early as December 2015 about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee — long before senior DNC officials were aware of it — and that the intrusion had all the hallmarks of a Russian operation.
As she and other State Department officials became “more alarmed” about what the Russians were up to in the spring of 2016, they were authorized by then Secretary of State John Kerry to develop proposals for ways to deter the Russians. But most of those steps were never taken — in part because officials assumed they would be taken up by the next administration.
“I believe there were deterrence measures we could have taken and should have taken,” Nuland testified.
As intelligence came in during the late spring and early summer of that year about the Russian attack, Daniel instructed his staff on the National Security Council to begin developing options for aggressive countermeasures to deter the Kremlin’s efforts, including mounting U.S. “denial of service” attacks on Russian news sites and other actions targeting Russian cyber actors.
Daniel declined to discuss the details of those options during Wednesday’s open hearing, saying he would share them with the panel during a classified session later in the day. But he described his proposals as “the full range of potential actions” that the U.S. government could use in the cyber arena “to impose costs on the Russians — both openly to demonstrate that we could do it as a deterrent and also clandestinely to disrupt their operations as well.”
Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, asked about a “Russian Roulette” passage in which one of Daniel’s staff members, Daniel Prieto, recounted a staff meeting shortly after the cyber coordinator was ordered by Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, to stop his efforts and “stand down.” This order was in part because Rice feared the options would leak and “box the president in.”
“I was incredulous and in disbelief,” Prieto is quoted as saying in the book. “It took me a moment to process. In my head, I was like, did I hear that correctly?” Prieto told the authors he then spoke up, asking Daniel: “Why the hell are we standing down? Michael, can you help us understand?”
Daniel confirmed to the intelligence panel that the account was “an accurate rendering of what happened” in his staff meeting. He said his bosses at the NSC — he did not specifically mention Rice in his testimony — had concerns about “how many people were working on the options” so the “decision” from his superiors at the Obama White House was to “neck down the number of people that were involved in developing our ongoing response options.”
Daniel added that “it’s not accurate to say that all activity ceased at that point.” He and his staff “shifted our focus” to assisting state governments to protect against Russian cyberattacks against state and local election systems.
But as for his work on developing cyber deterrence measures, “those actions were put on a back burner and that was not the focus of our activity during that time period.”
Instead, Obama officials chose another course of action after becoming frustrated that Republican leaders on Capitol Hill would not endorse a bipartisan statement condemning Russian interference and fearful that any unilateral action by them would feed then candidate Donald Trump’s claims that the election was rigged. They chose a private “stern” warning by Obama to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in China in early September 2016 to stop his country’s campaign to disrupt the U.S. election.
Obama officials were also worried that a vigorous cyber response along the lines Daniel had proposed could escalate into a full scale cyber war. And, they have since argued, they believed that the president’s warning had some impact, noting — as Daniel did in his testimony — that they saw some tamping down in Russian probing of state election data systems after Obama’s private talk with Putin.
But Nuland testified that while the Russians were “a little less active” in September after the Obama warning, Russian activity picked up again in October when the Russians accelerated their social media campaign using phony Facebook ads and Twitter bots.
“We saw an increase in what they were doing in social media,” Daniel agreed. “They shifted their focus.” Nuland also revealed, in response to questions by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, another previously unpublicized dimension to the Russian attack. That summer, Collins said, FBI officials advised the committee that Russian diplomats were traveling around the country in areas they were not — under diplomatic protocols — permitted to visit , apparently to collect intelligence. Asked by Collins if she believed this was part of the Russian so-called active measures attack on the election, Nuland responded, “I do.” source
Now The End Begins is your front line defense against the rising tide of darkness in the last days before the rapture of the church
HOW TO DONATE: Click here to view our GoFundMe page
When you contribute to this fundraising effort, you are helping us to do what the Lord called us to do. The money you send in goes primarily to the building of the recording studio, but it also goes to the overall daily operations of this site. When people ask for Bibles, we send them out at no charge. When people write in and say how much they would like gospel tracts but cannot afford them, we send them a box at no cost to them for either the tracts or the shipping, no matter where they are in the world. Even all the way to South Africa. We even restarted our weekly radio Bible study on Sunday nights again, thanks to your generous donations.
But whatever you do, don’t do nothing. Time is short and we need your help right now. If every one of the 12,621 people on our daily mailing list gave $4.50, we would reach our goal immediately. If every one of our 151,781 followers on Facebook gave $1.00 each, we would reach 300% of our goal. The same goes for our 13,600 followers on Twitter. But sadly, many will not give, so we need the ones who can and who will give to be generous. As generous as possible.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” Titus 2:13 (KJV)
“Thank you very much!” – Geoffrey, editor-in-chief, NTEB
HOW TO DONATE: Click here to view our GoFundMe page