Obama Promises 'Proportional' Response To Russian Hacking, Ignores That We Started The Fight

from the bogus-moral-high-ground dept

We’ve noted several times how launching cyberwar (or real war) on Russia over the recent spike in hack attacks is a notably idiotic idea. One, the United States effectively wrote the book on hacking other countries causing all manner of harm (hello, Stuxnet), making the narrative that we’re somehow defending our honor from shady international operatives foundationally incorrect. And two, any hacker worth his or her salt either doesn’t leave footprints advertising their presence, or may conduct false flag operations raising the risk of attacking the wrong party.

After significant pressure from intelligence industry saber rattlers and the cybersecurity firms that profit from cyber-hysteria, President Obama this week proudly proclaimed that the U.S. government would be launching a “proportional” response to Russia’s recent slate of hacking attacks:

“We obviously will ensure that a U.S. response is proportional. It is unlikely that our response would be announced in advanced. It?s certainly possible that the president could choose response options that we never announce,” Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One. “The president has talked before about the significant capabilities that the U.S. government has to both defend our systems in the United States but also carry out offensive operations in other countries,” he added. “There are a range of responses that are available to the president and he will consider a response that?s proportional.”

Again though, the very idea that the United States would be “responding” is fundamentally incorrect. We’ve been engaged in nation state hacking and election fiddling for decades, happily hacking the planet for almost as long as the internet has existed. We use submarines as underwater hacking platforms, the U.S. government and its laundry list of contractors routinely hacking and fiddling with international elections and destroying reputations when and if it’s convenient to our global business interests. Our behavior in 1970s South America giving tech support to Operation Condor is the dictionary definition of villainy.

Yet somehow, once countries began hacking us back, we responded with indignant and hypocritical pouting and hand-wringing. But the reality is we are not some unique, special snowflake on the moral high ground in this equation: we’ve historically been the bully, and nationalism all too often blinds us to this fact. Long a nation driven to war by the weakest of supporting evidence, hacking presents those in power with a wonderful, nebulous new enemy, useful in justifying awful legislation, increased domestic surveillance authority, and any other bad idea that can be shoe-horned into the “because… cybersecurity” narrative.

And as we’re witnessing in great detail, hacking has played a starring role in this nightmarish election, with Donald Trump giving every indication he intends to only ramp up nation state hacking as a core tenet of his idiocracy, and Hillary Clinton lumping Russia, hackers, and WikiLeaks into one giant, amorphous and villainous amoeba to help distract us from what leaked information might actually say about the sorry state of the republic.

We’re wandering into extremely dangerous territory here. As we saw with Stuxnet’s impact on companies like Chevron, the United States’ hacking behavior has had very real, negative repercussions for innocent third parties around the globe. Operating from the belief that we’re somehow nobly defending ourselves is a falsehood the media consistently perpetuates, making this kind of dangerous digital saber rattling easier than ever for those in power. The U.S. press and public can no longer afford to be so viciously naive as 2016 stumbles drunkenly to its welcome conclusion and hacking becomes the bogeyman du jour for the next administration.

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Comments on “Obama Promises 'Proportional' Response To Russian Hacking, Ignores That We Started The Fight”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’d not be shocked to find the DNC uploaded the ‘hacked’ emails to wikileaks.

The Clinton campaign knows that audio/video evidence of wrongdoing will always trump some textual evidence of wrongdoing.

Who you gonna elect, the rapist who’s own voice can be heard talking about the creepy things he’s done and has conspired with evil Putin to hack his opponent or the candidate that sent a few badly worded emails?

Besides those emails were altered by the evil Russians to make the Clinton campaign look bad, they never said that bad stuff, nothing to see here, move along, watch this video of Trump doing creepy things.

That One Guy (profile) says:

(Global) school-yard bully

Yet somehow, once countries began hacking us back, we responded with indignant and hypocritical pouting and hand-wringing.

That’s pretty typical bully behavior really, push everyone else around and generally act like a thug, believing all the while that they’re fully justified in doing so because it’s not like what they’re doing is that bad, and besides the other people had it coming it but the second someone else does the same back it’s ‘unfair’ and ‘uncalled for’ and they need to be punished for their actions.

timmaguire42 (profile) says:

Re: (Global) school-yard bully

Hypocrisy is irrelevant in international relations. As it should be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying some other country should not do something our country is doing.

All countries operate under this framework. If you thought about it, you’d recognize that there is no other way for foreign relations to work.

David says:

Re: Dems are such war mongers

Eisenhower was a Republican and it was in his parting speech that he warned about the military industrial complex, more or less establishing that phrase. So “sole domain of the Repubs” seems a bit revisionist.

It has taken some time for the MIC to control the manner the primaries are run such that they don’t have to worry about which party’s final candidate will win the presidency.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Dems are such war mongers

Shrug. Part of the DNC leaks’ purpose was showing how Sanders was screwed out of a fair chance of running by gaming the party’s infrastructure on behalf of the established players.

The Republicans can only hope that something similar happened with them given the end result of their nomination process.

Being the victim of a practical joke is far more relieving than growing a boil like that “naturally”.

Ed (profile) says:


Regardless of who started it, a response is necessary at this point to prevent total anarchy. To just allow the Russians, or anyone, to continue to violate sensitive networks is ludicrous. And when you have the candidate from the GOP promising to lift the sanctions against the Russian oligarchs if they help him win the Presidency, the response needs to be thorough, swift, and brutal. And WikiLeaks? Assange is acting like a child, at this point. I’ve lost whatever respect I ever had for him (and I did respect him greatly). I don’t think it too low for Assange to even doctor information, I can’t trust what he “leaks” as being unaltered. His own personal agenda has become suspect.

Whatever says:

Re: So?

I agree. I also think it’s meaningless to say who started it, because it’s entirely based on an arbitrary consideration of the starting point. Cyber snooping is just the digital variation of interception radio messages which was in turn a technology version of getting a copy of a letter, and so on. You can trace this back to the Roman empire if you so wish.

Also, I think you are correct – doing nothing right now would be a form of tacit support for the whole process (on both sides). It may require in some ways a little bit of a re-thinking of the basic operations of much of the internet to really deal with it. One thing for sure, it’s not nice out there!

As for Assange, let’s just says that there is more than enough reasons for him (and his remaining crew) to be misleading or to doctor things in a manner to get a rise out of people. Also, his connections to Snowden (direct and indirect) who in turn is basically working for the Russian government gives you enough traction to suggest Assange may be either helping out the Russians, or worse yet, getting played by them. Either way, Wikileaks credibility as a source is sinking pretty quickly, each release cycle seems to garner less media coverage and more media ridicule.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: So?

Regardless of who started it, a response is necessary at this point to prevent total anarchy.

Total anarchy? Really? By escalating issues and encouraging a cycle of greater attacks?

The “necessary” response is to encourage much more widespread use of encryption, take critical systems offline from the internet and better protect our systems — not just escalating the problem.

To just allow the Russians, or anyone, to continue to violate sensitive networks is ludicrous.

No one said to do that. Why set up that strawman?

Anonymous Coward says:

The us complaining about about foreign hackers is ridiculous,the nsa has hacked the un, the eu parliament ,
the german government ,
The problem is the us government is unwilling to invest
in basic security .see the opm hack etc
Then its suprised when government networks get hacked .
IS there any country with a modern internet infrastructure that is not being monitored by the nsa
via hacking or upstream data collection.

Anonymous Coward says:

And on and on and on....

Ignores That We Started The Fight

This is the American Government modous opperandi du jour, AND all nations in fact. If you review every sour case where nations talk about or begin sanctions against each other you are likely to find two very willing and complicit nations very much trying to undermine the other.

The very nature of “Government Institution” is one of monolithic hubris. Which is why we have so many of them, and why every single fucking one of them commits crimes against humanity when it deems necessary with little repercussion.

Russia is Russia & America is America… hypocrisy abounds on both sides.

Anonymous Coward says:

Putin Promises 'Proportional' Response To US Hacking

“We obviously will ensure that a Russian response is proportional. It is unlikely that our response would be announced in advanced. It’s certainly possible that the Prime Minister could choose response options that we never announce,” Moscow announced. “The Prime Minister has talked before about the significant capabilities that the Russian government has to both defend our systems in Russia but also carry out offensive operations in other countries,” he added. “There are a range of responses that are available to the Prime Minister and he will consider a response that’s proportional.”

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

One, the United States effectively wrote the book on hacking other countries causing all manner of harm (hello, Stuxnet),

What kind of “all manner of harm” did Stuxnet cause? AFAIK it harmed exactly what it was meant to harm (centrifuges designed to produce fuel for illegal nuclear weapons) with no collateral damage to unrelated systems.

Is there evidence to suggest otherwise?

all your net is belong to we the people says:

@ all the above

as an actual hacker at the top of the so called game i’ll tell you this much your govt has done more to bring me friends and allies in every nation on earth…thanks NSA!!!!

I will also say you have no idea who really did it, unless your saying that set of proxy servers are honey pots….THEY ARE NOT….

You then might just peeve the rest of us in the world off and then we the world will give you a stop response as in make it so you cant hold power on the net…..
your prisons are not large enough to hold us all….you’d need a gitmo the size of calfornia and you cant afford it….
heck your pissing off Mexicans with trump and Canadians with softwood lumber , you spy on allies….you will not get sumpathy for what you start.

YES obama i’m calling you out ….you will do zero cause of all you have already done….no one trusts the us govt look at the farce of an election….

the usa is a joke.

200000 hackers outside the usa says your screwed says:


wow your stupid , what are you advocating attacking someone you have no proof of just cause what? it makes your self arrogant righteous omnipotent self feel good….?

You wonder why the middle east will never change…you kill innocent people you radicalize them tll they all are aganst you….FOREVER….

the usa is nto strong enough to fight the entire worlds hackers …..and you nitwit. IN ages past we’d put people like you into mental institutions cause your not mentally stable…..

What you really want is after attacking this innocent neighbor of mine , you want me and ten of my buds to get together and go wreck yours totally so you think you can remove more civil rights and build a big army to fight us…problem you nitwit is you dont have enough people in that world avg math rank of 23 to even dent what the world could do to you cyber wise…

STOP THIS STUPID….cause the difference between dumb and stupid is stupid knows better…which are you?

haha hehe hoho says:


let me just say DO NOT BE SURPRISED IF the usa takes any action that a ton of other nations hackers NON state sponsored or otherwise join on THE OTHER SIDE and you get a shitstorm you will never ever recover from short of cutting yourself 100% off….

its been a long long time a lot a people have been sitting back ….wrongdoing? lolwhat….your idiot president is going to attack or begin provocations with someone whom hacked the dnc then the russians got wind later…..ITS ONE OF YOUR OWN YOU FOOLS…..

and unlike past years 15 years or so ago where my and mine helped your govt we will not support you any more…

we have an article of association that prevents “acts of aggression and threats to the peace”

Read the quote ten times and think real hard….what it means…

whoever i am , i represent 150 groups n 68 countres….and we pulled out of the usa 10 years ago ….

all your net is belong to we the people says:

@32 ( mike)

rest assured this wont be a long drawn out cyber war f obama really wants to have a global cyber war it will end very very fast with the utter 100% defeat of the usa as obama is forced to shut off the usa from the outside world.

you have no idea mike how far ahead some of us are tech wise…and what we have seen to help get us there and the SHARING is CARING we do amongst ourselves.

I will say ths much the last real cyber war , the usa needed ME and my buds help….and i brought 3307 real hackers to the game and ended another nation in 2 days.

Its not nice what obama advocates…..we have been sitting back observng now for almost 8 years just watching and learning more….Also i’d like to say i mean no disrespect to Americans your govt is the reason your math scores are low while they war monger about the world…instead of making the usa better…

I just wish they would really stop being so paranoid…Just what does the usa gov’t fear?

Really ask yourselves why they spy on allies….

WHY are stingrays from your nation in canada now for example…want a list of nations that now use them?

Believe me when i say this obama won’t do anything for the exact fears above I have stated….and i’ve already tangled many times with your gov’t////

I even have proof of the fbi illegal attacking our website years back so we had someone n your nation do them back and made a mug and put the exploit code on it and sold it on cafepress for charity….

900+ sales …..

hacking websites isn’t that hard…..all the rest of the world has to do for a week is turn there’s off and hten wack the usa’s…… thats the day you know your going to lose…

HegemonicDistortion says:


A note about the “attribution problem” — Attribution doesn’t work like that for the U.S. We don’t rely on the forensics like a security company (or even the FBI, perhaps) does — we get most of our evidence from extensive NSA penetration of foreign networks and the Internet itself, including at times watching them unfold in near real-time.

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