WASHINGTON — The White House was so concerned about Russia interfering with the election or even attacking the power grid that it used the so-called red phone system to place a call to the Kremlin on Oct. 31, warning the Russians and President Vladimir Putin about repercussions.
That’s according to NBC News, which quoted two unidentified senior intelligence officials – both non-partisan career officers
“[President Obama and White House officials] believed the widespread attack on the Internet on Oct. 21 blocking millions of Americans from popular websites was a possible dry run for a massive attack by the Russians on Election Day — maybe even pulling down the electrical grid. It spooked the White House,” NBC News Correspondent Cynthia McFadden said in a Dec. 19 report.
The red phone system was created during the Cold War to prevent misunderstandings between the two nations. Today, it employs a secured satellite link and is rarely used.
“It’s extremely unusual, and doing so sends a signal unto itself, so it’s a dramatic step to pick that phone up and use it” former NATO head and retired Admiral James Stavridis told NBC News.
The Oct. 21 denial of service attack took down the websites of several major companies, including Amazon, PayPal, Twitter and Netflix. When the White Made the call on Halloween morning, it believed the Oct. 21 attack had originated from Russia.
“Back in October it was viewed by some as a possible dry run for a massive attack on Election Day,” McFadden said.
According to the intelligence officials, the White House told Russia: “International law, including the law for armed conflict, applies to actions in cyberspace. We hold Russia to those standards.”
One senior advisor urged Obama to warn Russia that any meddling in the election would be viewed as an act of war, although he chose not to be that specific, NBC News reported.
This was the second time Obama warned Putin about hacking. He pulled Putin aside at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, in September and issued a similar warning.
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