by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Despite an unprecedented Russian intelligence operation to influence the 2016 presidential election, former President Barack Obama rejected a plan to conduct retaliatory cyber action against Moscow during the campaign, according to former CIA Director John Brennan.
Brennan disclosed Saturday that Obama opposed a plan to carry out “a cyber event” against the Russians because the former president feared the action would lead to more aggressive interference by Moscow.
“There was consideration about rattling their cages with some type of cyber event,” Brennan said during remarks to a journalism conference at the University of California Berkeley.
But based on Obama’s fears, the planned cyber action was shelved in favor issuing vague warnings to Russian officials. Brennan did not elaborate on the cyber retaliation plan.
“President Obama was the ultimate decision-maker on that,” Brennan said of the lack of response.
The former CIA director defended the Obama administration’s handling of what is widely viewed as a significant counterintelligence failure during the presidential election.
After the election, Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence officers.
Both the FBI and CIA are charged with the conducting counterintelligence–detecting and thwarting hostile intelligence operations. Both agencies failed to halt the Russians in 2016 either in the United States or abroad.
U.S. officials have said the targeting of U.S. and foreign elections by Russia is continuing.