Biden needs to respond to Russian hacking

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President Joe Biden is a famously nice guy. Maybe he should stop being nice, just for a while.

His administration is reportedly close to punishing Russia for a series of glaring transgressions and abuses, including the epic SolarWinds Corp. computer hack that has left governments and businesses worldwide exposed to a mammoth data breach. As Bloomberg News reported Wednesday, the White House may soon announce economic sanctions against individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and expel Russian diplomats from the U.S. There also may be “private talks with Russia laying out further actions the U.S. would be prepared to take.”

I don’t know. When you haven’t taken any action, telling the people who have been picking your pocket that there are further actions you would be prepared to take if they don’t change their ways doesn’t seem threatening.

And the clock is ticking. The SolarWinds hack burst into view in December, but by then it had been running undetected for months. In late February, amid congressional inquiries into the intrusion, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration would soon deploy a “mix of tools seen and unseen” against Russia that went well beyond economic sanctions. Those actions were said to be just weeks away. In March, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said a “mix of actions seen and unseen” were on the way.

Now it’s April, and Biden still hasn’t acted. What’s more, he has yet to appoint a national cyber director, the person with the authority to coordinate speedy responses to cyberattacks. Congress created the position late last year through defense legislation that overcame a veto from former President Donald Trump. The expectation was that Biden’s White House, which has prioritized cybersecurity, would fill the role quickly. But bureaucratic squabbles have left it empty.