The agency's goal would be to "embarrass" top Russian officials.
NBC News reports that the CIA is developing scenarios for an electronic attack on Russian leadership. According to sources including current government officials, the intent is to “embarrass” top Russian officials through “clandestine” and widespread hacking.
Vice President Joe Biden seemed to be pointing to just such a possibility during an appearance on Meet the Press airing today, when asked by Chuck Todd why America hasn’t responded to Russian attempts to interfere with the Presidential election.
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“We’re sending a message,” Biden said, with a barely-suppressed smirk. “We have the capacity to do it. He’ll know it. It’ll be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that have the greatest impact.”
U.S. intelligence officials also revealed to NBC that the CIA already has a trove of documents detailing unspecified transgressions by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to experts speaking with NBC, possible scenarios for cyberattacks on Russia have been laid out before, but never acted on because of fears of escalation, or of setting a precedent normalizing attacks on network infrastructure. Plans currently being developed by the CIA would still need to be reviewed and approved by the President.
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It is possible, though, that some form of groundwork for a large-scale U.S. attack is already underway. In July, Russian officials disclosed that spyware had been discovered on multiple government networks.
Meanwhile, the intense recent focus on Russian actions against the U.S. risks overshadowing signs that Chinese state hackers appear to be methodically planning a system-wide attack on the basic infrastructure of the internet.