The Obama administration is considering launching a covert cyber attack against Russia to retaliate for the country's alleged interference in this year's presidential election, according to intelligence officials, with Vice President Joe Biden saying Friday that the White House is "sending a message" to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Current and former intelligence officials, said to have direct knowledge of the plans, told NBC News in an an exclusive that the CIA has already been asked to deliver options for an operation to "embarrass" Putin and other Russian leaders.
They did not say what the CIA is planning, but told NBC that the agency has been selecting targets and making other preparations. Also, the agency has gathered documents to expose Putin's tactics, the network said.
On Friday, Biden dismissed suggestions that the White House has failed to respond to Russia's interference, telling NBC's Chuck Todd that "we're sending a message," and "we have the capacity to do it."
"He'll know it and it will be at the time of our choosing and under the circumstances that have the greatest impact," said Biden, adding that he hopes the public will not know.
However, retired Gen. Jack Keane, now a Fox News military analyst, says he doubts Russia is afraid of Biden's words or the potential threat of a cyber attack, as "we've never responded in kind to any provocation by the Russians, not to the annexation of Crimea, the expansion into Ukraine, military incursion in Syria, bombing the CIA-backed Syrian moderate rebels, the recent horrific war crimes committed against the Syrian people."
Russia, he told Fox News, is working in its own national interests.
"What the Russians want is a return to the world stage as a global power," said Keane. "They want to be taken seriously. They have serious economic and domestic problems at home. They're camouflaging some of that by a lot of the incidents that Putin is creating on that world stage. What it really comes down to is he really wants power. He's interested in forcing eventually the collapse of NATO. As much as he can humiliate and embarrass the United States, that is to his advantage because it weakens our relationships with our allies."
The Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence last week released a statement charging Russia with directing attacks that exposed hacked emails in an attempt to interfere with the presidential election. The statement was Washington's first official accusation against Moscow.
In the past, U.S. officials said any cyber attacks on important U.S. institutions would prompt a response, which could take the form of diplomatic or economic sanctions, or possibly cyber measures.
The United States should attack Russia's ability to censor Internet traffic, while exposing Putin's financial dealings, Retired Admiral James Stavridis told NBC News' Cynthia McFadden, as "it's well known that there's great deal of offshore money moved outside of Russia from oligarchs" and the revelations would be "embarrassing."
Sean Kanuck, a former intelligence officer said it would be dangerous to accuse Russia of wrongdoing without following that up with action.
However, CIA officers who worked on Russian intelligence said the White House has often asked for covert action options, but then has abandoned the ideas over political decisions.
"If someone has decided, 'We've had enough of the Russians,' there is a lot we can do," one of the officials said, including reminding Russia that two can play its game.
Meanwhile, experts, including former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, said they doubt the United States will attack Russia's networks.
"We don't want to set a precedent for other countries to do it as well, including against us," Morell said. "My own view is that our response shouldn't be covert — it should overt, for everybody to see."
The officials told NBC the Obama administration is still weighing its options, whether to respond with measures such as cyber attacks or through economic sanctions. Meanwhile, the potential cyber operation is being prepared by a team with the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence, documents indicate.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.