A Bemused User Guide to Understanding OFAC Listings
2016 December 31
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I almost sympathize with the poor folks in Russia trying to make sense of what the White House pushed out this past week in response to Russian actions against the US political system. Not least of which because - while what was released was "in response to" what might have happened, it had little to do with what actually happened.

I've been collecting and exploiting such US government data dumps for at least 15 years now. Based on that experience, here are a few comments.

The technical document? LOL. Forget about the technical document. The really good stuff won't see the light of day unless/until it has to be presented as evidence in a court of law. The OFAC listings, however, are not to be dismissed out of hand. In the present case, the listing of FSB and GRU are political gestures without much effect. The two named Russian hackers were already on FBI Wanted posters, so no surprise there.

Which brings us to the matter of the two named companies. Named, but why? Don't hold your breath waiting for an answer, it will be awhile. Four years would not be a very long time as such things go. And people associated - either now or in the past - with those companies? They have the pleasure of being unnamed but implicated all the same. Sucks to be them.

One thing I *can* tell you is that OFAC doesn't play games. They have a basis for listing entities. Commonly "information available to the United States", which can mean... many things.

And finally, there is the matter of sealed indictments. It is common practice for the United States to bring evidence before a grand jury alleging that crime or crimes have been committed. If the grand jury agrees with prosecutors, charges can be filed against people, and arrest warrants can be issued. All of this occurs in secret, and all records are sealed until, for example, someone who is wanted makes themselves available to be arrested.

The OFAC listings are here.

© 2015-2016 Andrew Aaron Weisburd