Days before election, U.S. used secret hotline to ask Russia to halt cyber interventions

David Ignatius writes: The White House sent a secret “hotline”-style message to Russia on Oct. 31 to warn against any further cyber-meddling in the U.S. election process. Russia didn’t escalate its tactics as Election Day approached, but U.S. officials aren’t ready to say deterrence worked.

The previously undisclosed message was part of the high-stakes game of cyber-brinkmanship that has been going on this year between Moscow and Washington. How to stabilize this relationship without appearing to capitulate to Russian pressure tactics is among the biggest challenges facing President-elect Donald Trump.

The message was sent on a special channel created in 2013 as part of the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, using a template designed for crisis communication. “It was a very clear statement to the Russians and asked them to stop their activity,” a senior administration official said, adding: “The fact that we used this channel was part of the messaging.”

According to several other high-level sources, President Obama also personally contacted Russian President Vladimir Putin last month to caution him about the disruptive cyberattacks. The senior administration official wouldn’t comment on these reports.

The private warnings followed a public statement Oct. 7 by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson charging that “Russia’s senior-most officials” had authorized cyberattacks that were “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” [Continue reading…]

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