UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites

U.S. intelligence officials have alleged that the UAE at least orchestrated hacking of Qatari Government websites to post false quotes that were then used to justify major sanctions against Qatar.

Washington Post: UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites, sparking regional upheaval, according to U.S. intelligence officials

The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation. The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done. The false reports said that the emir, among other things, had called Iran an “Islamic power” and praised Hamas.

The hacks and posting took place on May 24, shortly after President Trump completed a lengthy counterterrorism meeting with Persian Gulf leaders in neighboring Saudi Arabia and declared them unified.

Citing the emir’s reported comments, the Saudis, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt immediately banned all Qatari media. They then broke relations with Qatar and declared a trade and diplomatic boycott, sending the region into a political and diplomatic tailspin that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has warned could undermine U.S. counterterrorism efforts against the Islamic State.

In a statement released in Washington by its ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE said the Post article was “false.”

“The UAE had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article,” the statement said. “What is true is Qatar’s behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Qadafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbors.”

The US were in a difficult position. They have their main Middle East military base in Qatar.

The conflict has also exposed sharp differences between Trump — who has clearly taken the Saudi and UAE side in a series of tweets and statements — and Tillerson, who has urged compromise and spent most of last week in shuttle diplomacy among the regional capitals that has been unsuccessful so far.

“We don’t expect any near-term resolution,” Tillerson aide R.C. Hammond said Saturday.

The claim of UAE orchestrated hacking probably won’t help achieve a resolution.

Trump versus Putin on Russian hacking

There seems to be a stark difference between Vladimir Putin’s account of his discussion with Donald Trump over Russian interference in the US election, and what Trump staff are saying, but Trump himself is remaining vague.

After his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg Trump said:  I ‘strongly pressed’ Putin on election meddling

“I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..” the president tweeted.

“…We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” he added.

Putin earlier in the day said at a press conference that he believes Trump is convinced by his denial that his state interfered.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said at a press conference that Trump accepted the denial.

Trump staff responded:  Priebus: Trump ‘absolutely did not believe’ Putin

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus pushed back Sunday against the Russian account of the meeting President Donald Trump had with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Priebus said Trump did not believe Putin’s claim Friday that Russia had not attempted to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

“The President absolutely did not believe the denial of President Putin,” Priebus said. “What the President did is he immediately came into the meeting, talked about Russian meddling in the US election, went after that issue at least two separate times.”

Priebus said an “extensive portion” of the first meeting between the two leaders was dedicated to the issue and offered what he said was Trump’s position.

“He’s said they probably meddled in the election. They did meddle in the election,” Priebus said. “The one thing that he also says — which drives the media crazy, but it’s an absolute fact — is that others have as well. And that’s true. China has, North Korea has, and they have consistently over many, many years.”

Priebus said Trump’s tweets did not mean Russia was “off the hook.”

UN Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley…

said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump was forceful in the meeting, and Russia was “trying to save face” in denying any election interference.

The meeting on Friday was between Trump, Putin, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. After the meeting was over, Tillerson and Lavrov offered different descriptions of the meeting on the election meddling issue. Tillerson said when Trump pressed Putin and he denied involvement, Trump moved on to other topics, while Lavrov suggested Trump had accepted Putin’s denial.

Putin said as much Saturday.

“I repeat, he asked a lot of questions on this matter,” Putin said of Trump. “I answered as many as I could answer. I think he took it into consideration and agreed with it. But you should ask him what his opinion is on that.”

It appears that trump doesn’t want to give his opinion on it. He appears to be avoiding challenging Putin publicly.

Trump changes hacking position again

Donald Trump has expressed changing views about Russian hacking interference in last year’s US elections.

  • Prior to his presidential run, Donald Trump made statements to Fox News in 2014 in which he agreed with an assessment by FBI director James Comey about hacking against the U.S. by Russia and China.
  • In September 2016, during the first presidential debate, Trump said he doubted whether anyone knew who hacked the DNC, and disputed Russian interference.
  • During the second debate, Trump said there might not have been hacking at all, and questioned why accountability was placed on Russia.
  • After the election, Trump rejected the CIA analysis and asserted that the reports were politically motivated to deflect from the Democrats’ electoral defeat. Responding to The Washington Post, Trump dismissed reports of Russia’s interference, calling them “ridiculous”; he placed blame on Democrats upset over election results for publicizing these reports.
  • On January 6, 2017, after meeting with members of U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump released a statement saying: cyberwarfare had no impact on the election and did not harm voting machines.
  • Two days later, Reince Priebus reported that Trump had begun to acknowledge that “entities in Russia” were involved in the DNC leaks.
  • On January 11, 2017, Trump conceded that Russia was probably the source of the leaks, although he also said it could have been another country.

Trump’s changing views may have been due to changing information that he was aware of, but US intelligence agencies had made it clear they though Russian hackers had tried to interfere with the election

The CIA assessment, and Trump’s dismissal of it, created an unprecedented rupture between the president-elect and the intelligence community. On December 11, 2016, U.S. intelligence officials responded to Trump’s denunciation of its findings in a written statement, and expressed dismay Trump disputed their conclusions as politically motivated or inaccurate

Last month Trump seemed to accept that Russian hacking had occurred when he blasted Barack Obama for not doing anything about it.

The Independent: Donald Trump says Barack Obama ‘colluded’ by not pursuing Russia’s election hacking

In a morning tweetstorm, Mr Trump asserted that “The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win…and did not want to ‘rock the boat.’ He didn’t ‘choke,’ he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good.”

It is unclear who Mr Trump is claiming Mr Obama colluded with or what he obstructed.

Last week in Poland Trump’s story had changed. The Hill:

President Trump in Poland last week said that he thinks Russia and “people in other countries” likely attempted to meddle in the 2016 presidential race, but “nobody really knows.”

Except apparently the FBI and the CIA and the NSA and those who take any notice of them.

“I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other people in other countries,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. “It could have been a lot of people interfered.”

Then Trump met Putin in Hamburg:  I ‘strongly pressed’ Putin on election meddling

President Trump early Sunday said he “strongly pressed” Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G-20 summit on Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

“I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..” the president tweeted.

“…We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” he added.

Trump did not say whether he accepted Putin’s denial, however.

Putin earlier in the day said at a press conference that he believes Trump is convinced by his denial that his state interfered.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said at a press conference that Trump accepted the denial.

Trump has expressed different opinions on the hacking over time, and now appears to have different stories for different audiences.

Is “working constructively with Russia” more important than dealing with interference in the US democratic process?

 

Independence Day

It’s the fourth of July in the US, their Independence Day. Fox News has just tweeted:

But just prior to this Fox also shows how non-isolated and independent of international affairs the US is.

Fox News: Russia trolls US, Trump with Fourth of July tweet

The Russian embassy reminded Americans in a tweet Tuesday that a Fourth of July musical staple was actually written about one of that country’s own wars.

“Dear Americans, happy Independence Day! Learn more about Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, now a July Fourth tradition,” the embassy wrote.

The tweet included a link to a Sputnik news agency story about the song’s origins and was published Tuesday as tension rose with Russia over North Korea’s missile program. Both Russia and China announced a joint agreement challenging Trump and urging an end to joint exercises with South Korea.

And the Russian threat to US democracy:

FoxPollHacking

But when they meet at the G20 summit Trump has said he won’t discuss Russian hacking with Putin.

And from Reuters:

As Trump heads to his first face-to-face meeting as president with Putin on Friday at the G20 summit in Germany, he is under pressure at home to take a tough line with the Kremlin.

Allegations of Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. election have alarmed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who are pushing to extend tough sanctions placed on Russia following its 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula belonging to Ukraine.

Lawmakers including Republican Senator Cory Gardner are also concerned Russia has prolonged the civil war in Syria by backing its President Bashar al-Assad, a strongman whose forces have used chemical weapons against insurgents and civilians. The chaos has fueled instability in the region and a flood of migrants to Europe.

“President (Trump) needs to make it clear that the continued aggression by Russia around the globe … is unacceptable, and that they will be held accountable,” said Gardner, who was among six lawmakers invited by the White House last month to discuss foreign policy with Trump over dinner.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded Russia sponsored hacking of Democratic Party groups last year to benefit Trump over his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. Russia has denied those allegations while Trump has repeatedly dismissed the idea of any coordination between his campaign and Russia as a “witch hunt.”

Still, just the optics of Trump meeting with Putin, a former KGB agent, are fraught with risk, foreign policy experts say.

Trump has signaled an interest in cooperating with Russia to defeat Islamic State in Syria and to reduce nuclear stockpiles.

The lack of a unified strategy has left U.S. allies anxious. And it has lowered expectations for American leadership to help resolve crises in Syria and Ukraine, where Russian cooperation would be critical.

“Trump is like a horse with his front legs tied,” said a German diplomat, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity. “He can’t make any big leaps forward on Russia. If he tried people would immediately suspect it was all part of some big conspiracy.”

Speaking with reporters last week about Trump’s upcoming meeting with Putin, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said his boss would like “the United States and the entire West to develop a more constructive relationship with Russia. But he’s also made clear that we will do what is necessary to confront Russia’s destabilizing behavior.”

The White House has been mum on what Trump would be willing to give Russia in exchange for that help.

Other Washington veterans say Trump won’t be able to make meaningful progress with Russia on anything until he confronts Putin about the suspected election meddling.

“(Trump) really has to raise the Russian election hacking last year, and has to say something like, ‘Vladimir, don’t do this again. There will be consequences,'” said Steve Pifer, a long-time State Department official focused on U.S.-Russia relations.

So far Trump has shown little inclination to do so, a situation that has heightened speculation about the potential impact from his coming encounter with the Russian leader.

“The shadow of all these investigations hangs over this,” said Angela Stent, a professor at Georgetown University and former National Intelligence Officer for Russia.

Being President was never going to be easy.

Neither was being independent going to be, not just for the US but also for countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Qatar or South Korea.

More claims of Russian election interference

Some here have said that allegations of Russian hacking and interference in the US presidential election isn’t a big deal, they shouldn’t be investigated, and everyone should just “move on”.

The election result is a done deal and there’s not changing that, but efforts to combat international interference in elections is a growing problem that needs attention and demands investigation.

The Russian hacker claims have now moved to the French presidential election.

BBC: Russian hackers ‘target’ presidential candidate Macron

Russian hackers are targeting the campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, say security experts.

Phishing emails, malware and fake net domains were all being used as attack techniques, said Feike Hacquebord, from security company Trend Micro.

The attackers are believed to be part of the same group that targeted the US election.

Russia has denied that it is behind attacks aimed at Mr Macron.

In a report, Mr Hacquebord said the group behind the “aggressive” attacks was a collective of Russian hackers known widely as Fancy Bear, APT28 and Pawn Storm.

He said the group was using an extensive arsenal of high-tech con tricks to grab the login names, passwords and other credentials of staff aiding Mr Macron’s bid to be the next French president.

In particular, said Mr Hacquebord, the hacker group had registered several net domains similar to those already registered by the French politician’s staff.

The fake domains were then used in phishing emails sent to key workers in an attempt to get them to visit the websites so login details could be scooped up.

Mr Hacquebord said telltale techniques of the group lent weight to the idea that the people involved in the French attacks were behind ones seen last year in the US.

A spokesman for the French national cyber-security agency, ANSSI, confirmed that it too had seen several attacks on Mr Macron’s staff and back-office systems.

However, a spokesman for the agency said it was difficult to be sure that the Pawn Storm group was behind the attacks.

But:

The Pawn Storm group is also believed to have been involved in other attacks on political organisations, including the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, the Turkish government and Montenegro’s parliament, as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency and Arabic television channel al-Jazeera.

This sort of political cyber attacking and campaign disruption is difficult to combat, but it would be ridiculous to just try to ignore it as if it isn’t a problem.

 

UK’s former Moscow ambassador on Trump dossier

Outside of the current mess of US media and politics, where it’s difficult to know who is faking what, the dossier on Trump/Russia is getting attention also in the UK, which is also deeply involved.

And a former UK ambassador to Russia is giving some credence to the spy who put the dossier together.

The Guardian: UK’s former Moscow ambassador in spotlight over Trump dossier

Sir Andrew Wood says he rates judgment of report author Christopher Steele, who ‘would not make things up’

It could depend on whether Steele’s sources are making things up or not though.

Cool, unruffled and polite, Sir Andrew Wood is every inch the Foreign Office mandarin, and not a diplomat ordinarily associated with the kind of cold war-style alleged sex scandal currently embroiling the president-elect, Donald Trump.

Yet to his evident discomfort, Wood has found himself thrust front and centre of a story that has generated global interest and sent shudders around Washington and Whitehall on the eve of an inauguration that will be stained by the furore.

Wood, 77, knew and respected Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 officer who wrote the 35-page dossier that contained lurid allegations about Trump. Wood also spoke to the Republican senator John McCain about the claims.

The two men had met at an “international security forum” in Canada last November – Wood addressed delegates about Ukraine, McCain about Syria. But it was their private discussion about Russia that set in train this week’s remarkable events.

Wood shared with the veteran senator what he knew about the dossier and warned that if any of its central claims were true, Trump could be blackmailed by Russia. McCain was worried enough to seek out a copy of the documents for himself – which he then passed to the FBI.

So Wood and McCain both thought it was serious enough to do something about it (but it should be noted that McCain has been a strong opponent of Trump since before this broke).

Wood, the UK ambassador to Moscow between 1995 and 2000, explained the sequence of events in various media interviews on Friday – using the kind of moderated language that no doubt helped persuade McCain, and then the heads of the US intelligence agencies, that both President Obama and the brash incumbent, needed to know what was being circulated.

At a point when the British government was hoping the story would go away, Wood lobbed the ball back into the billionaire’s court.

He told the Guardian the report’s key allegation – that Trump and Russia’s leadership were communicating via secret back channels during the presidential campaign – was eminently plausible.

“I think it has to be disproved, rather than anything else,” he said.

I don’t think it should be entirely that way, if at all. It would make a big difference to the story if some proof was produced.

Of Steele, who compiled the dossier last year at the behest of Trump’s political enemies, Wood told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday morning he knew him to be a “very competent professional operator … I do not think he would make things up. I don’t think he would necessarily always draw the correct judgment, but that’s not the same thing at all.”

Later, Wood was more generous in his assessment of Steele, telling the Guardian he “rated his judgment”.

“I take the report seriously. I don’t think it’s totally implausible. It’s conceivable he [Steele] has been duped or has exaggerated what his sources have been telling him. But I can’t really believe the dupe argument. Why would they [the Kremlin] bother?”

This is likely to help give the story some legs.

All of which suggests the debate about the dossier and its unsubstantiated claims are likely to rumble on in the US and the UK – which is likely to frustrate Downing Street as it tries to build bridges with a new, unpredictable administration.

It was GCHQ that tipped off the US about Russia hacking the Democratic Convention, and it was an MI6 officer whose work on Trump has caused the combustible businessman such embarrassment this week.

The UK is inextricably linked with the US and Russia over both the hacking and the dossier issues. And on the hacking:

Wood told the Guardian it was Trump’s own erratic behaviour on the campaign trail that had raised questions about his links with Russia. Trump originally denied that Putin had anything to do with hacking – only to say at his press conference earlier this week he thought Moscow was indeed guilty.

Confronted with serious hacking allegations, a presidential candidate would more usually call for a full inquiry, Wood said. Trump didn’t. “It colours the perception. Trump has encouraged the idea that there were meetings [between Trump aides and the Russian leadership],” Wood said, adding: “On the other hand, Trump says the first thing that comes into his head.”

If there were allegations of hacking being used by a major foreign power to try to influence a US election I would have thought that any responsible presidential candidate would have wanted it investigated properly.

Regardless of the facts or lack of facts Trump’s erratic behaviour and statements raise substantial doubts about his credibility.

US mess gets murkier

Claims have surfaced that Donald Trump has potentially been compromised by Russians. These are unverified, and not surprisingly Trump  tweeted “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

CNN broke this story: Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him

Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.

One reason the nation’s intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington, multiple sources tell CNN.

These senior intelligence officials also included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats. This synopsis was not an official part of the report from the intelligence community case about Russian hacks, but some officials said it augmented the evidence that Moscow intended to harm Clinton’s candidacy and help Trump’s, several officials with knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The two-page synopsis also included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, according to two national security officials.

The raw memos on which the synopsis is based were prepared by the former MI6 agent, who was posted in Russia in the 1990s and now runs a private intelligence gathering firm.

His investigations related to Mr. Trump were initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries, multiple sources confirmed to CNN. Those sources also said that once Mr. Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton.

Spokespeople for the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. Officials who spoke to CNN declined to do so on the record given the classified nature of the material.

Some of the allegations were first reported publicly in Mother Jones one week before the election.

New York Times: Trump Received Unsubstantiated Report That Russia Had Damaging Information About Him

The memos suggest that for many years, the Russian government of Mr. Putin has looked for ways to influence Mr. Trump, who has traveled repeatedly to Moscow to investigate real estate deals or to oversee the Miss Universe competition, which he owned for several years. Mr. Trump never completed any major deals in Russia, though he discussed them for years.

The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel. The videos were supposedly prepared as “kompromat,” or compromising material, with the possible goal of blackmailing Mr. Trump in the future.

The memos also suggest that Russian officials proposed various lucrative deals, essentially as disguised bribes in order to win influence over Mr. Trump.

The memos describe several purported meetings during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump representatives and Russian officials to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta.

This is all unverified.

The former British intelligence officer who gathered the material about Mr. Trump is considered a competent and reliable operative with extensive experience in Russia, American officials said. But he passed on what he heard from Russian informants and others, and what they told him has not yet been vetted by American intelligence.

Whatever the Russians have done deliberately or inadvertently, they appear to have played a significant role in the election, and what is emerging is highly embarrassing to the United States.

It has become a murky mess, and it’s quite likely to get worse.

UK tipped off US over Russian hacking

From Missy on claims that UK Intelligence services tipped off the US that Russia was attempting political hacks.


Apparently it was the UK Intelligence services that first tipped the US off to Russia’s campaign to influence the election. The reports suggest that the UK were aware in the Autumn of 2015 that Russia were responsible for a breach in the DNC, and tipped off the US. There are also claims that Russia had attempted a similar hack in the UK in the lead up to the 2015 election by targeting Whitehall computers, however it was thwarted by GCHQ.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/07/russia-us-election-hacking-uk-intelligence

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/06/vladimir-putin-accused-us-intelligence-report-ordering-broadinfluencecampaign/

The question would have to be, why didn’t the US act on this information? I have no reason to believe that the UK did not provide the information as soon as they learned of it, so the US intelligence agencies would have known by the end of 2015, why didn’t they do something then?

Paul Ryan: Assange a ‘sycophant for Russia’

The Republicans will dominate all of the presidency, the Senate and Congress in the new term, but the way the year has started suggests it may not be unbridled power – the horses seem to be hitched and pulling in different directions.

There was an attempt to slash oversight of Congress, followed by a Trump frowning via Twitter a rapid u-turn – see The Swamp fights back.

Now Paul Ryan calls Julian Assange a ‘sycophant for Russia’.

Mr. Assange reiterated this week in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Russia was not the source behind the internal communications from Democratic officials that WikiLeaks released during the campaign.

In a series of Wednesday morning tweets, President-elect Donald Trump touted Mr. Assange’s recent testimony and questioned why Democratic officials were so “careless” with their communications.

But…

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Wednesday told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he really has no opinion on Mr. Assange, “other than I think the guy is a sycophant for Russia.”

Also:

@Evan_McMullin
.@SpeakerRyan on Julian Assange: “He leaks. He steals data and compromises national security.”

All Press Corps eyes will probably be atwitter and atrump.

 

US retaliates against Russian hacking

After weeks of accusations that Russia was involved in political hacking and interfering in last month’s US election last month President Obama has now launched retaliatory actions.

Washington Post: Obama administration announces measures to punish Russia for 2016 election interference

The Obama administration announced sweeping new measures on Thursday in retaliation for what U.S. officials characterized as Russian interference in this fall’s presidential election, ordering the removal of 35 Russian government officials and sanctioning state agencies and individuals tied to the hacks.

The FBI and CIA have concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. Thursday’s announcement comes several weeks after President Obama promised to respond to Russian hacking with both public and covert actions,“at a time and place of our own choosing.”

The president said the new actions followed repeated warnings to the Russian government and were “a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests” contrary to international norms.

Obama said Americans should be “alarmed” by Russian actions, which he said included the interference in the election and harassment of U.S. diplomats overseas. “Such activities have consequences,” he said in a statement.

The new measures include sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, three companies that are believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The administration will also shut down Russian-owned facilities in Maryland and New York that Obama said where used for intelligence activities and would declare 35 Russian operatives “persona non grata,” meaning they would be required to leave the United States.

The State Department said it is taking action against these 35 individuals in response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and to the harassment of U.S. diplomats overseas over the last four years.

“The harassment has involved arbitrary police stops, physical assault, and the broadcast on State TV of personal details about our personnel that put them at risk,” according to a statement from State Department spokesperson Mark C. Toner.

The executive order released by the White House

The Russians dismiss these actions.

“Any anti-Russian sanctions are fruitless and counterproductive,” said Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian foreign ministry official in charge of democracy and human rights, according to Interfax. “Such one-sided steps have the goal of damaging relations and complicating their restoration in the future.”

I think that one sided steps such as hacking foreign political parties and leaking hacked information to political activists intent on influencing an election also risks damaging relations and complicating the restoration of good relations (if the US claims are true).