The White House [official website] on Thursday announced [press release] that sanctions would be enacted against Russia as a response to Russia’s involvement in hacking during the recent election and for the treatment of US diplomats in Russia. The White House alleged that Russia intentionally tried to interfere with the US election in favor of one of the candidates, by releasing a string of emails obtained through hacking, and that orders to do so could have come from the highest level of the Russian government. The White House further alleged, that Russian police and security forces have been harassing American diplomats in Russia for the last year. The sanctions [press release] consists of deporting 35 Russian officials suspected of being intelligence operatives and shutting down two Russian facilities in New York and Maryland, both suspected of being used for intelligence-related purposes. Sanctions have also been imposed on Russia’s two main intelligence agencies and four high ranking officers of these agencies, as well as three private Russian companies. Russia responded by criticizing the sanctions and threatening to eject US diplomats, calling the sanctions an effort from the White House to deal a blow to the foreign policy plans of the incoming administration.
The issue of cybersecurity has been adressed several times by the White House under the Obama administration. In 2015 the White House imposed sanctions [JURIST report] and higher penalties on foreign security threats. The Obama administration has also urged Congress to pass stricter cyber security laws, and in 2013 an official from the Obama administration testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] to urge Congress to amend [JURIST report] the Freedom of Information Act in order to strengthen the government’s ability to prevent disclosure of information related to critical infrastructure and cybersecurity. An interesting question is, what the US can do about Russian hacking, if the US has jurisdiction [JURIST commentary] over hacking executed from outside the US.