Obama Cyber Security Coordinator Says ‘Stand Down’ Order Against Russian Cyberattacks Was Given in 2016

Michael Daniel, National Security Council cybersecurity coordinator for the former administration, confirmed during a hearing on Wednesday that a “stand down” order was given to counter Russian cyberattacks during the 2016 election.

His comments came in response to a question during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about a passage of the book Russian Roulette, dealing with a staffer from his team. The staffer, Daniel Prieto, allegedly said former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice ordered Daniel’s team and him to “stand down” and stop their efforts to counter Russia’s cyberattacks.

After the order was given, Daniels told his team to halt work on options to halt the attack coming from Russia, saying “We’ve been told to stand down.” The passage of the book in question says that Prieto was in disbelief and asked why they had to stand down, Fox News reports.

“That is an accurate rendering of the conversation at the staff meeting but the larger context is something that we can discuss in the classified session,” Daniel said. “But I can say there were many concerns about how many people were involved in the development of the options so the decision at that point was to neck down the number of people that were involved in our ongoing response options. It’s not accurate to say all activities ceased at that point. “

During the hearing, Senator James Risch also asked Daniel, whose team was tasked with developing options to Russia’s cyberattacks on the United States, whether his area of supervision completely ceased after the “stand down” order.

“No, we shifted our focus in that September and October time frame to focus heavily on better protecting and assisting the states in better protecting the electoral infrastructure and ensuring that we had the greatest visibility as possible into what the Russians were doing and developing essentially an incident response plan for election day,” Daniel said.

He added that their cyber response, however, was “put on the back burner” and was no longer the focus of their activity. The Democratic National Committee servers were hacked in 2015 by Russians, who also hacked U.S. voter registration systems a year later.

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