News Wrap: U.S. blames Russia for DNC, election hacking

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A Russian flag flies over the Volgarive in the town of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, July 10, 2015. Russia will host the World Cup soccer tournament for FIFA in 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov  - RTX1JXFE

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JUDY WOODRUFF:  In the day’s other news:  The United States formally charged that Russia organized the hacking of Democratic political sites and state election systems.

The Department of Homeland Security and the director of national intelligence said it is an effort to interfere with the election process.

We get more now from David Sanger of The New York Times.

David, thanks for being with us.

What’s the significance of this and the fact that it comes, what, almost four months after we first heard about these hacks?

DAVID SANGER, The New York Times:  That’s right, Judy, and we reported in late July that the government and intelligence agencies already had high confidence that it was Russia.

What was interesting about this statement, there’s sort of three big things.  The first is that the White House decided to formally do this.  Usually, President Obama has been very reluctant to name foreign actors who were believed to be behind big hacks.

They named North Korea in the Sony hack two years ago, but declined to name China in the hack of more than 20 million security files from the Office of Personnel Management, and didn’t name Russia when they hacked into the State Department White House and Joint Chiefs of Staff e-mails, mostly unclassified e-mails.

But, in this case, I think they felt that it was getting too close and that they had to issue a warning to the Russians not the mess around on November 8 with voter rolls or other elements.

I think a second important part of it, Judy, is that, by naming them, the president has now got to announce what he’s going to do about it.  And they haven’t said that.  He could do economic sanctions.  He could take overt action.

But there is always a worry in cyber that you get into an escalation issue, where we do something, they do something back, and it can get much bigger.

Then I think the third interesting point is that they said the Russian leadership itself had to be behind some of the DNC hacks.  It couldn’t have just been done at a lower level.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And I noticed they identified — they said most senior officials.

So what are the options, David, for the administration to do something in response?

DAVID SANGER:  Well, there are a few, Judy.

One is simply to say, by issuing a warning, they have put them on notice, we’re watching, we know what you’re doing, so don’t mess around a month from now.

Option number two would be to make the use of new presidential directive that President Obama signed after the Sony hacks — I think it was signed in April of 2015 — that basically would allow them to do economic sanctions, the way you do against terrorism suspects or nuclear proliferators.

The third option would be to issue a finding, a presidential intelligence finding, which is, by its nature, secret, and authorize the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command to take countervailing action against Web sites or servers inside Russia or to do something else that would show the Russian government and particularly President Putin that we can play this game, too.

But, as I said, that’s risky, because, you know, you never know where that stops, and you’re on the same kind of escalation ladder you are in any other conflict or in nuclear theory.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But, finally, David, this certainly signals that the administration believes, if the Russians have the capacity to do this, they must have the capacity to do other damage.

DAVID SANGER:  Well, they do.

And you don’t know what other leaks come from the Russians, but just this evening, just as all of this was happening, we saw leaked e-mails posted on WikiLeaks that were written in communications with John Podesta, who helped run Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, that, if it turns out to be like the other material given to WikiLeaks or other groups, could turn out to be that the Russians are already spreading more of this around.

We don’t have the attribution on that yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, it certainly does seem to be a new — we have reached a new level in outside governments’ involvement in American politics.

DAVID SANGER:  We certainly have.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  David Sanger — David Sanger, we thank you.

DAVID SANGER:  Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Meantime, Russia moved today to keep its troops in Syria indefinitely.  The State Duma ratified a treaty with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  It permits Russia to use a major air base on Syria’s coast for as long as it wants.

But, in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia and Syria should be investigated for war crimes, for attacking hospitals and other civilian targets.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  They’re beyond the accidental now, way beyond, years beyond the accidental.  This is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who’s in the way of their military objectives.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The U.N. Security Council votes tomorrow on a resolution urging a truce in Aleppo, and an end to all airstrikes on the city.  Russia signaled that it will veto the proposal.

The Philippines is putting joint military exercises with the U.S. on hold in the South China Sea.  The country’s new president, Rodrigo Duterte, said today that he wants a current ongoing exercise to be the last during his six-year term.

In a speech, he warned Washington — quote — “Do not treat us like a doormat, because you will be sorry for it.  I can always go to China” — end quote.

The pace of hiring in the U.S. economy slowed a little in September.  Today’s Labor Department report tells the story:  Employers added a net of 156,000 jobs, despite the fact manufacturers cut their work force for a second month.  The unemployment rate ticked up a 10th of a point to 5 percent, as more people started looking for work.

And on Wall Street:  The Dow Jones industrial average lost 28 points to close at 18240.  The Nasdaq fell 14 to close at 5292.  And the S&P 500 slipped seven.  All three indexes were down for the week, after three straight weeks of gains.

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