White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco said during an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that President Barack Obama ordered the intelligence community to conduct a thorough investigation of the cyberattacks and foreign intervention that took place during the 2016 election.
Monaco said on Friday that Obama wants a full review of what happened during the election process and a report on his desk before leaving the Oval Office on January 20. Obama called this investigation “a major priority of the president of the United States” while White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the investigation would be a “deep dive.”
News of Obama’s report arrives a few months after Vice President Joe Biden admitted on Meet The Press that the White House sent a “message” to Russian president Vladimir Putin warning that the United States will take aggressive action if Russia continued to interfere with the elections. The White House accused Russia of cyberattacks against the Democratic Party prior to November 8.
“He’ll know it,” Biden said, referring to the “message sent to Putin. “And it will be at the time of our choosing. And under the circumstances that have the greatest impact.”
Cyberattacks during the election process are not anything new, but there seems to be an unspoken concern regarding Russia’s possible involvement, Donald Trump’s relationship to the Russian president, and Trump’s eventual victory in the presidential race. As Reuters points out, Trump seemed rather wishy-washy regarding his stance with Putin, stating that he didn’t personally know the man one moment and praising Putin in the next. He even called on Putin to dig up missing emails regarding Hillary Clinton.
Obama’s investigation partly stems from Democratic lawmakers who want the White House to take action against Russia for its involvement. They also want to declassify the information so that the data can be made to the public for transparency reasons. Monaco said on Friday that the results of the investigation will indeed be provided to lawmakers, and other individuals and organizations.
“The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process … and to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders, to include the Congress,” Monaco said.
The investigation will look for a pattern to the cyberattacks that have taken place over the last several years. It will go back as far as 2008 when the FBI discovered that China infiltrated the presidential campaign networks of then-Senator Obama and Republican candidate John McCain. Monaco specifically mentioned the 2008 attack when she described the recent 2016 election attacks as “malicious.”
Schultz conducted a press meeting at the White House echoing Monaco’s statements. He said that there weren’t any noted “intrusions” in 2012, but the investigation will use the latest cybersecurity tools to go back and examine both elections. The investigation seems to focus on Russia even though China was involved in 2008.
“We’re going to make public as much as we can,” he told the press. “So you can imagine a report like this is going to contain highly sensitive and even classified information perhaps. So when that report is submitted, we’re going to take a look, we’re going to make sure we brief Congress and relevant stakeholders like possibly the state administrators who operationalize the elections.”
The Department of Homeland Security officially pointed a finger at the Russian Government on October 7, stating that the U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that Russia compromised emails from “U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.”