A series of explosive Department of Justice filings—outside the special counsel’s probe—makes clear that Russia is a rogue state in cyberspace. Now the United States needs a credible system to take action, and to sanction Russia for its misdeeds.
Consider what we learned from last month’s criminal charges filed by the Department of Justice against the “chief accountant” for Russia’s so-called troll factory, the online-information influence operations conducted by the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg. The indictment showed how Russia, rather than being chastened by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s detailed February indictment laying out its criminal activities, continued to spread online propaganda about that very indictment, tweeting and posting about Mueller’s charges both positively and negatively—to spread and exacerbate America’s political discord. Defense Secretary James Mattis later told the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, that Vladimir Putin “tried again to muck around in our elections this last month, and we are seeing a continued effort along those lines.”
In October, a 37-page criminal complaint filed against Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, who is alleged to have participated in “Project Lakhta,” a Russian-oligarch-funded effort to deploy online memes and postings to stoke political controversy, came along with a similar warning, from the director of national intelligence. Those charges came in the wake of coordinated charges filed this fall by U.K., Dutch, and U.S. officials against Russia and its intelligence officers for a criminal scheme to target anti-doping agencies, officials, and even clean athletes around the world in retaliation for Russia’s doping scandal and in an apparent effort to intimidate those charged with holding Russia to a level playing field. There’s also new evidence that Russia has been interfering in other foreign issues, such as a recent referendum in Macedonia aimed at easing that country’s acceptance into Europe.