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U.S. President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn after arriving in Marine One from a recent trip to New York at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump took steps on Wednesday to loosen limits on when the U.S. government can deploy cyber weapons against adversaries, reversing Obama-era guidelines, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Trump signed an order reversing Presidential Policy Directive 20 that had mapped out an elaborate interagency process before the United States engaged in cyberattacks, the Journal said https://on.wsj.com/2MlnH6O, citing people familiar with the action.

The White House did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Although the policy directive signed by former President Barack Obama was classified, its contents were made public when it was leaked in 2013 by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the Journal said.

It was not clear what rules the Trump administration was adopting to replace the Obama-era policy, the Journal said. It said while a number of current U.S. officials confirmed the directive had been reversed, they declined to comment further, citing the classified nature of the process.

One administration official briefed on the decision described it as an "offensive step forward" intended to help support military operations, deter foreign election influence and thwart intellectual property theft by meeting such threats with a more forceful response, the Journal said.

National security adviser John Bolton began the effort to remove the directive after he took up his position in April, the official told the Journal.

Critics of the Obama-era policy have seen it as preventing a quick and forceful response to cyberattacks by involving too many federal agencies in the planning.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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