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12 Aug, 2016 12:58

Washington considers sanctioning Moscow over DNC email leak - report

US officials are considering new economic sanctions against Russia over the DNC email leak released by WikiLeaks, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing sources familiar with the situation.

Officials have not so far, however, reached common ground on how exactly to impose sanctions, the WSJ reports.

Adopting more anti-Russian economic sanctions would mean delivering public accusations against Moscow or exposing links of the alleged hackers to Russia.

The White House has so far not commented, although the FBI and intelligence agencies investigating the cyberattack have “signaled” that the attack was “almost certainly” carried out by “Russian-affiliated hackers,” according to the WSJ.

The breach of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, already compared to the Watergate scandal, is far from reaching its peak, as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has dropped a broad hint he has much more material to potentially publish.

Speaking in Washington DC on Thursday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she does not know exactly how the notorious DNC leak was possible, but that there could be no mistake about its initiator.

“I know for sure it is the Russians,” Pelosi told reporters, adding “we are assessing the damage.”

“This is an electronic Watergate…The Russians broke in. Who did they give the information to? I don’t know. Who dumped it? I don’t know,” she said, as quoted by the WSJ.

The Democrats are now urging the Obama administration to take decisive action.

“When the administration believes it has sufficient evidence of attribution, it will make that attribution public as well as consider any other steps necessary,” said Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

During President Barack Obama’s two terms in office, relations between Moscow and Washington have dropped to lows similar to those seen in the years of the Cold War.

Washington has already imposed a wide range of sanctions against Russian politicians and state companies following the reunification of Crimea with Russia, and accuses Moscow of being involved in the civil war in Ukraine.

Moscow has consistently denied allegations about its possible role in the hacking of US Democratic Party emails published by WikiLeaks.

"We are again seeing these maniacal attempts to exploit the Russian theme in the US election campaign," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Political author Diana Johnstone believes that the move against Russia would be an attempt to shift the fault from Hillary Clinton.

“They are throwing the accusations into the air. If they had the proof, we would see the proof. It’s quite characteristic that they will pin everything on Russia,” Johnstone said in an interview with RT, adding that these kind of tactics are “wildly irresponsible and dangerous.”

Last year, President Obama signed an executive order that facilitates imposing sanctions against any country endangering US national security through cyberattacks.

“Our tools now include an executive order authorizing sanctions against those that engage in significant malicious cyber activities, such as harming our nation’s critical infrastructure – our transportation systems or power grid,” White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco said last month.

“Nations like Russia and China are growing more assertive and sophisticated in their cyber operations,” the US counterterrorism adviser claimed, before mentioning cyber threats from “non-state actors,” including Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

There is the view in the US that the DNC breach is a tit-for-tat payback operation.

“They believe we are trying to influence political developments in Russia, trying to effect change, and so their natural response is to retaliate and do unto us as they think we’ve done unto them,” the director of US national intelligence, James Clapper, said last month, without making specific statements about the alleged Russian role in the DNC breach.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton seems to have no doubts whatsoever about the Russian involvement in the leaks.

“Russian intelligence services, which are part of the Russian government, which is under the firm control of Vladimir Putin, hacked into the DNC and we know that they arranged for a lot of those emails to be released...,” Clinton told Fox News earlier this week.