By Michael Kan
Jan. 9, 2017
A highly anticipated U.S. intelligence report claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to covertly influence last year’s presidential election in favor for Donald Trump.
However, the report – or at least the declassified version – offered no new evidence or sources to prove the Kremlin’s role in sponsoring the effort, which included hacks and online propaganda.
The U.S. government published the 25-page document on Friday amid skepticism from incoming President-elect Trump over whether Russia was really involved.
Outgoing President Barack Obama has nevertheless ordered sanctions against Russia and threatened covert action in retaliation for the cyber-meddling.
Friday’s report was compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. It was a modified version of a larger, classified report that included details about the methods and sensitive sources used to collect the intelligence.
The declassified paper focuses on the conclusions that the agencies reached about Russia’s effort to influence the election. It claims that Putin ordered the covert effort in 2016 “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process” and to denigrate Trump’s campaign rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Eventually, the Kremlin aspired to help Trump win, the report said. “All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence,” the report said.
To influence the election, Russia used a mixture of cyberspies, state-sponsored media and paid social media users to boost Trump over Clinton. Among those actions was Russian intelligence hacking Democratic Party organizations and leaders as a way to steal sensitive files.
Russian intelligence then allegedly used WikiLeaks, the hacker persona Guccifer 2.0 and hacktivist site DCLeaks.com to release the stolen data to the public.
Russian intelligence had also been found accessing “multiple state or local electoral boards,” though none of those were involved in tallying votes. Since early 2014, Russian intelligence has been researching U.S. electoral technology, the report claimed.
The report warned that the Kremlin will use the lessons it learned in the operation to influence future elections around the world, including those of countries allied with the U.S.
Many, if not all, of the claims made in Friday’s report have already been covered by the U.S. media in recent months. However, the original classified version reportedly contains details that showed U.S. spy agencies have identified who supplied WikiLeaks with the stolen Democratic emails.
In addition, U.S. intelligence reportedly has intercepted communications showing that senior Russian government officials celebrated Trump’s election win.
Before Friday’s report was published, Trump met with U.S. intelligence leaders about their findings. However, in a statement, he withheld any direct endorsement of their conclusions and instead focused on the importance of combating cyberattacks in general.
Russia has denied any involvement in the hacks.