Why did Obama issue a "stand down" order of counter-cyber activities targeted at Russia?

Our resident Silver lining has asked this question in a number of different threads, so I figured I’d start one here to centralize the discussion. Presumably he thinks this question is of great importance and or persuasive value.

Background here.

My thoughts, all pretty much just ripped from the above source.

  1. Obama did not appreciate the full scope and severity of the Russian election meddling campaign, and his stand down order was a legitimate mistake.
  1. Obama didn’t want a tit-for-tat escalation of hostilities, and due to reason 1 above, felt that a personal conversation with Putin would suffice.
  1. Given that a counter attack was off the table per reason 2, Obama opted to focus on defense instead.

Seems to me that the question asked was answered in one of the articles that Silver lining himself posted, but that’s just my take on it. Anyone got anything else? Is this the bombshell he apparently wants it to be?

Perhaps because Obama had the flexibility to direct foreign policy decisions as president?

Er, yes, but that is clearly not an answer in the spirit of the OP’s question.

I think, based on my reading of evidence, is that the Obama administration and the various intelligence agencies did not, in the summer of 2016, fully appreciate the hazard. It was an intelligence failure in the same vein as Pearl Harbor, or the Yom Kippur War, or the Argentine invasion of the Falklands - nothing treacherous, they just didn’t comprehend the extent of the threat. In retrospect it looks easy to figure out. In real time it never is.

Three different intelligence disasters each caused by a different misreading… Not sure that explains it.

Obama spent most of his second term being outplayed by Putin and the US intelligence services cannot have been naive enough to to think that the Russians would not want to pay them back for years of Amercian meddling in elections in Russian and its “near abroad”?

By 2016 Cold War II had been on for nearly 2.5 years.

Who knows the real answer, but I’ve pieced out my theory.

It seems that most congressional leaders were briefed in early August 2016 about Russian efforts. According to an interview with Biden, Obama was seeking a bipartisan agreement to do something aggressive against the Russians. It sounds like Obama wanted Ds and Rs on the same page, because the attacks were obviously targeting Clinton, and Obama probably didn’t want any insinuation that he was trying to tilt the election toward Clinton by taking on the Russians.

According to interviews with Obama’s chief of staff, McConnell didn’t want to sign up for that until a late September letter to the states urging them to do better on cyber security (but not mentioning Russia).

This asserted “stand-down” order appears to have been delivered right in the middle of all of this playing out: congressional leaders appear to have known about the Russian hacking, but there was no agreement among them to regard a response against Russia as the defense of our country, as opposed to defense of one candidate.

Even in hindsight, I think it’s a difficult question as to whether Obama should have done more to respond to the Russian active measures if it would have been painted as one Dem tipping the election for another Dem. On the other hand, maybe Obama was just overthinking it, and should have chosen action. On the third hand, why the fuck didn’t McConnell just agree that our country should be defended?




I agree with my friend Zaphod. :slight_smile:

Sure. In 1941 Japan had been on the warpath for years, and relations with the USA had long been degrading. In 1973 Israel had of course been effectively at war with the Arab states for its entire quarter century of existence. They still failed to anticipate the exacct timing of a specific threat.

I think that’s part of it - they didn’t appreciate the hazard.

But then once you realize the hazard, there’s another question: how do you respond to it? How does Obama respond in the middle of a contentious election in which people from various campaigns have already claimed to be “rigged” without appearing to be intervening in the campaign and facing claims that he has a dog in the fight?

But part of this is simply on Obama and his personality as president. Obama’s strength, his coolness in hostile and pressure packed situations, was also sometimes his weakness. Obama was slow to react in Syria, and he spoke about a “red line” before he was ever fully committed to the use of military force, which is a terrible blunder on his part. I sometimes got the sense Obama was afraid to get tough with people because it just wasn’t his nature, and he was afraid he’s he’d get tough at the wrong time or with the wrong foe. I think some of his nemeses - Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, and others - sensed this and openly tried to challenge him, just to see what they could get away with. I don’t mean that Obama was a coward, but that he just naturally assumed that good diplomacy would work things out, which is not always the case.

This is it. President Obama knew that Republicans would have accused him of meddling. Tragically ironic.

By 2016, Obama knew very well that (1) McConnell couldn’t be trusted to put country before party, and (2) and White House imperative was going to be called executive overreach by the GOP even if it had bipartisan support.

My take is along the lines of several posts above. Basically, I agree with Rickjay that the full scope of the threat wasn’t appreciated until too late. This happens quite a lot…people still, today underestimate cyber attacks and their full scope and the ramifications. In addition, I think that Obama always tried run the country by consensus, especially with the full Congress…Democrats AND Republicans. I think this can be seen in both what the OP is asking as well as the Syrian ‘red line’.

There was and is a lot to admire about Obama, IMHO…but there were several instances such as this where his weaknesses in implementation came through and he failed to act as a president should.

What’s obvious was a clandestine remote server that lacked government security used to bypass systems that could be monitored.

I wonder how much of the idea that Clinton would win anyways played a part in Obama’s decision making. Because if she was already going to win, why give ammo to the other side. All speculation on my part.

What are you talking about? Have you forgotten that Clinton was a private citizen starting 2013 and had nothing to do with the US government during the entire election and the whole of the events we’re talking about here? Why would DNC servers be under government control?

What server are you talking about?

I think this is a big reason why Dems didn’t fight back very hard over the Supreme Court nomination dirty pool, too.

Tune in to tonight’s InfoWars to learn the shocking “truth” about whatever Magiver is babbling about!

You misspelled “gripping”.

Baseless speculation on your part. Completely baseless speculation on your part. As in, nothing in Mr. Obama’s character or past actions would even indicate that such action was possible on his part. Should “malicious” get added to “completely baseless speculation”?

I would baselessly entertain that baseless speculation, not that I have a firm base for it. I could very well see that Obama might ask himself, “Hillary is going to beat this clown… if we go all medieval on Putin’s ass right now, she will have to deal with four years of ‘the election was rigged!1!’ and I shouldn’t rush to hang that albatross around her neck.”

Again, speculation, but there’s some logic there. And it sounds like something that a thoughtful person like Obama might say.