WASHINGTON — The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.
In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.
It seems clear that any energy sector accident at all in Russia will now be suspected Trumpian sabotage. Suppose another Chernobyl accident should occur? Trump. He's a maniac, bringing us close to nuclear holocaust. He's "literally" Hitler, or worse--he's Trump!
Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place “implants” — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid.
Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.
An administration out of control! And in the dark! Trump is a cyber/twitter attack on our political grid! Someone please take him out before we're all killed!
Or am I somehow getting the message wrong? I don't think I am. And the hope seems clear enough as well--to provoke a response from Trump that will play into the Deep State/Establishment narrative of a dangerously unbalanced and incompetent president who must be removed, no later than 2020 but preferably tomorrow. Impeachment, 25th Amendment? Something, anything?
Trump has responded, calling the report "NOT TRUE" and a "virtual act of Treason", labeling the NYT as "THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE":
Donald J. Trump
Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia. This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country.....
Donald J. Trump
.....ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!
Is Chris Wray's FBI on this leak case?
UPDATE 1: Interesting response from the NYT--John Bolton had no concerns about this story. That would be the same John Bolton concerning whom the WaPo reported on May 8:
President Trump is questioning his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela following the failure of a U.S.-backed effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro, complaining he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman with a young opposition figure, according to administration officials and White House advisers. The president’s dissatisfaction has crystallized around national security adviser John Bolton and what Trump has groused is an interventionist stance at odds with his view that the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires. Trump has said in recent days that Bolton wants to get him “into a war” ...
UPDATE 2: I presume that part of what's driving these events is the belief that, from a political standpoint, Trump can't afford to sack Executive Branch officials whose replacements would require Senate confirmation. IOW, the Deep State is counting on cooperation from Senate NeverTrumpers.
UPDATE 3: More from NYT:
But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.
But the action inside the Russian electric grid appears to have been conducted under little-noticed new legal authorities, slipped into the military authorization bill passed by Congress last summer. The measure approved the routine conduct of “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace, to “deter, safeguard or defend against attacks or malicious cyberactivities against the United States.”
Under the law, those actions can now be authorized by the defense secretary without special presidential approval.
“It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” one senior intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity but declining to discuss any specific classified programs. “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”
So, view that in light of the passage regarding Trump not being briefed "in detail" out of fear that he would countermand the operations.
Get it? It's the whole ICA Russia narrative. Bolton wants to take action against any actor engaged in cyber operations against the US. Well, didn't Russia hijack our 2016 election? The ICA says so--they wanted to support Trump and Trump won. QED!
Which is why Barr and Durham need to sort out the ICA ASAP. And move to protect the President's status as CINC.
UPDATE 4: There's a lot of speculation out there about both this NYT story as well as the Gulf of Oman tanker attack. I don't really want to go to the second story because there are so many moving parts involved there. Rather, I'd prefer to point out the fact that John Bolton is National Security Adviser.
Yes, of course you knew that. But, that means he's the common denominator in it all.
Trump has expressed frustration at Bolton's repeated attempts to maneuver him into war. Trump has had to several times publicly contradict Bolton, including re one of Trump's signature successes, North Korea, in stark terms.
Consider, too: Exactly why would hostile countries such as Russia or China want to negotiate about anything at all with the US, after Bolton essentially confirmed the article that Trump said was NOT TRUE (his caps, not mine)? Does that sound like it would work well with Trump's well known MO of doing deals? And wasn't that cute--the NYT set Trump up to deny the article, then launched Bolton's confirmation? Who thinks Trump was amused by that?
John Kirakou gives a flavor for the dynamics at play with Bolton in Bolton’s Long Goodbye:
The right-wing Washington Examiner reported this week that Bolton acknowledged these reports [that the NSC is in disarray under his "leadership" and he's on thin ice] but in a back-handed way. [Bolton] said in a Wall Street Journal podcast that he believes five countries are spreading “lies about dysfunction in the Trump administration.” Those countries are North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and China. That’s laughable.
What Bolton is saying is that there is a vast and incredibly well-coordinated international conspiracy that includes some of the most important countries in the world, the main purpose of which is to embarrass him. That sounds perfectly rational, right?
Of course, a more rational person might conclude that Bolton has done a terrible job, that the people around him have done a terrible job, that he has aired his disagreements with Trump in the media, and that the President is angry about it. That’s the more likely scenario.
... [Insert long litany of Bolton screwups and undercutting Trump.]
All of this has made Trump angry. He’s constantly being one-upped by one of the Washington swamp monsters he promised to rid the city of. He finally seems to have come to realize that even establishment Republicans dislike and distrust John Bolton. And now he understands why.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s chief of staff, has very quietly and discreetly begun informal meetings with a list of a half-dozen possible replacements for Bolton. Let’s hope he finds one that he and Trump both like sooner, rather than later.