Obama orders probe into election cyber attacks, fears Russia will go unpunished under Trump

Obama orders the probe into the 'malicious cyber activities' to be completed before he leaves office.

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US President Barack Obama has ordered a deep dive investigation into the cyber attacks, allegedly by Russian hackers, that marred the presidential election this year. Obama ordered the probe into the 'malicious cyber activities' to be completed before he leaves office. Much of the sensitive findings will remain classified, while the administration said portions of it could be published.

The administration announced the decision on Friday saying the country had "crossed into a new threshold." The investigation will place the Russian cyber attack theory that existed throughout the election year into greater context. President-elect Donald Trump had at one point extolled the Russians for digging up the dirty secrets from the inner circles of the Democratic Party organisation.

US accuses Russia of cyber attacks, pledges retaliatory steps

While the US administration clearly said Moscow-backed hackers engaged in cyber foul play Trump hasn't been critical of Russia. Obama is worried about the ominous silence from Trump and believes that the Russians will go unpunished if he doesn't act, the administration officials said, according to NBC News.

The cyber hacks had destabilized the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and candidate Hillary Clinton. Democrats believe the data dump by the hackers seriously affected Clinton's chances of winning the presidency as she lost by a whisker in Democrat-leaning swing states, which eventually handed White House to Trump.

"It is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what this means, what has happened and to impart those lessons learned," Lisa Monaco, Obama's counterterrorism and homeland security adviser said, Christian Science Monitor reported.

White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said the review will be broad and deep at the same time. "Obviously, you can imagine a report like this is gonna contain highly, you know, sensitive and even classified information," he added.

The investigation will also cover the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections as well. In 2008 the campaigns of both John McCain and Obama were subjected to alleged cyber attacks by Chinese hackers who primarily targeted the emails of top advisers to the candidates. "We will be looking at all foreign actors and any attempt to interfere with the elections," Schultz said.

In early October, the US government officially accused Russia of orchestrating cyber attacks on the country. A government statement said only the senior-most Russian officials could have authorized the cyber warfare aimed at interfering in the November 8 elections.

"We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities," the statement said.

A hacker who named himself Guccifer 2.0 had owned up the responsibility in July for the release of documents that revealed the inner workings of the Democratic Party. The US Department of Homeland Security said the method of the attack was consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.

The hacked documents had revealed that Democratic Party officials were biased against Clinton's rival Bernie Sanders in the race for the party nomination.

This article was first published on December 10, 2016