Obama announces sanctions for Russian election hacking

The Obama administration announced today that it will impose sanctions on Russian intelligence services and officials in response to the hacks of American political institutions during the election season.

The sanctions cover nine individuals and organizations in Russia, and will prevent four officials from Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, from traveling to the U.S. or keeping assets here. But the sanctions may not have a significant impact, the New York Times reports, since GRU officials do not often visit the U.S. Thirty-five Russian intelligence operatives will also be forced to leave the U.S.

Three companies were also singled out in the announcement of the sanctions: the Special Technologies Center, Zor Security, and a group called the “Autonomous Non-commercial Organization Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems” that reportedly provided training to hackers.

“I have sanctioned nine entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations. In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information,” President Obama said in a statement. “The State Department is also shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes, and is declaring ‘persona non grata’ 35 Russian intelligence operatives.”

Obama expanded an executive order issued after the Sony hacks in order to sanction the officials and agencies, adding language that allows sanctions for undermining the election process. Hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager during the election season led to leaks that damaged the campaign.

President-elect Donald Trump will have the power to alter the sanctions once he takes office, and it’s unclear whether the sanctions will stick under his administration. Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed intelligence community reports that Russia tampered with the U.S. election process, told reporters last night that he didn’t believe the sanctions are necessary.

“I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need,” Trump said.

In addition to the sanctions, the Obama administration has also suggested that it will take retaliatory action in secret. His administration has been criticized for responding to Russian hacking too slowly, a charge that Obama rejected during a recent press conference.

“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities. We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized,” Obama said in his statement, adding that his administration will report to Congress about Russia’s interference during this election season, as well as other hacking attempts on previous elections.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security issued a brief overview of the hacks of the DNC and published a list of IP addressed believed to be associated with the attacks.