Citing US officials briefed on the matter, the Washington Post reported that intelligence agencies had identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, to WikiLeaks.
The White House said on Friday that US President Barack Obama ordered intelligence agencies to review cyber attacks and foreign intervention into the 2016 election and deliver a report before he leaves office on Jan. 20.
The official said that during the fall, as Russian hackers turned almost all their attention to the Democrats, virtually all the emails they publicly released were potentially damaging to Clinton and the Democrats.
“That was a major clue to their intent, ” the official said. “If all they wanted to do was discredit our political system, why publicize the failings of just one party, especially when you have a target like Trump?”
A second official familiar with the report said the intelligence analysts’ conclusion about Russia’s motives does not mean the intelligence community believes that Moscow’s efforts altered or significantly affected the outcome of the election.
Russian officials have denied all accusations of interference in the US election.
The officials described the individuals as people known to the intelligence community who were part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and reduce Clinton’s chances of winning the election.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected, ” the Post quoted a senior US official as saying. “That’s the consensus view.”
The Post said the official had been briefed on an intelligence presentation made by the Central Intelligence Agency to key US senators behind closed-doors last week.
The CIA, in what the Post said was a secret assessment, cited a growing body of evidence from multiple sources. Briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, the Post quoted officials as saying on condition of anonymity.
In October, the US government formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.
The hacked emails passed to WikiLeaks were a regular source of embarrassment to the Clinton campaign during the race for the presidency.
US intelligence analysts have assessed “with high confidence” that at some point in the extended presidential campaign Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government had decided to try to bolster Trump’s chances of winning.
The Russians appeared to have concluded that Trump had a shot at winning and that he would be much friendlier to Russia than Clinton would be, especially on issues such as maintaining economic sanctions and imposing additional ones, the official said.
The official continued to say that Moscow is now launching a similar effort to influence the next German and French elections, following an escalating campaign to promote far-right and nationalist political parties and individuals in Europe that began more than a decade ago.
In both cases, said the official, Putin’s campaigns are intended to disrupt and discredit the Western concept of democracy by promoting extremist candidates, parties, and political figures.
In October, the US government formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election. Obama has said he warned Putin about consequences for the attacks.
The CIA presentation fell short of a formal US assessment by all 17 US intelligence agencies, the Post said. A senior US official said there remained minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the assessment because some questions are unanswered, it said.
Intelligence agencies did not have specific intelligence showing the Kremlin directed the individuals to pass the hacked emails to WikiLeaks, another senior official told the Post. The actors were “one step” removed from the Russian government rather than government employees, the official said.
Trump, for his part, has said he is not convinced Russia was behind the cyber attacks. His transition team issued a statement saying that “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again’.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said in a television interview that the Russian government was not the source of the emails, the Post said.
By Ynet News, Reuters