Biden Orders Sweeping Assessment of Russian Hacking, Even While Renewing Nuclear Treaty

Biden Orders Sweeping Assessment of Russian Hacking, Even While Renewing Nuclear Treaty

A key question facing Avril D. Haines, the new director of national intelligence, is whether the operation was limited to espionage, or whether “back doors” placed in government and corporate systems give Russia new abilities to alter data or shut down computer networks entirely.

Mr. Biden also instructed Ms. Haines on Thursday to provide him with an assessment of the Kremlin’s effort to use a chemical weapon against Russia’s leading opposition politician, Aleksei A. Navalny. Mr. Navalny, who survived the attack, was arrested this week when he returned to Russia.

Ms. Haines was also asked to review intelligence that produced evidence that Russia put a “bounty” on the lives of American troops in Afghanistan.

Intelligence reviews are routine when the White House changes hands. But in the case of Russia, it is particularly vital: From his first meeting with Mr. Putin in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017, President Donald J. Trump seemed oddly deferential to the Russian leader.

Mr. Trump appeared to endorse Mr. Putin’s denial that Moscow had anything to do with the 2016 effort to influence the presidential election, and in December, Mr. Trump suggested that maybe China, not Russia, was behind the hacking of government systems. He was contradicted within days by his own intelligence officials and, as far as it is known, did nothing to respond to the Russian hacking.

Mr. Biden, in contrast, promised to take action.

The top Democrats on congressional intelligence panels said the new order was well timed and was something they had long sought from the spy agencies.

Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, who will become the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Mr. Biden was ordering a broad new intelligence assessment on Russia, and, in particular, a better understanding of the SolarWinds hacking.

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