US intelligence report: Vladimir Putin ‘ordered’ operation to get Trump elected

The report found that a multifaceted Russian campaign, going beyond the high-profile data breaches, included state-owned media and social media campaigns. Photograph: Alexander Utkin/AFP/Getty Images

The report found that a multifaceted Russian campaign, going beyond the high-profile data breaches, included state-owned media and social media campaigns. Photograph: Alexander Utkin/AFP/Getty Images

This report, available as PDF below, on Vladimir Putin and Russian influence in getting Donald Trump elected President of the United States is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment; its conclusions are identical to those in the highly classified assessment but this version does not include the full supporting information on key elements of the influence campaign.

Declassified assessment says Russia ‘had clear preference’ for Trump, who met with US intelligence chiefs on Friday but refused to endorse their findings. You may read this declassified report and decide for yourself.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the agencies found in a long-awaited report that stands to hang over the head of the incoming Trump administration.

Though the declassified report lacks detail, never before has the US intelligence apparatus publicly assessed a foreign power to have interfered in an election for the benefit of an incoming president.

The three US intelligence agencies assessed with “high confidence” that Russian military intelligence was behind anonymous hacking entities Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.com, and relayed to WikiLeaks data stolen from prominent Democrats. WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange has denied receiving any material from the Russians.

“Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity. Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries,” the agencies found.

The intelligence assessment found that a multifaceted Russian influence campaign, going beyond the data breaches at the Democratic National Committee, began as an effort to undermine Clinton’s “expected presidency” and included state-owned media and social media campaigns. It foreshadowed “future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes”.

“We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him,” the report said.

After meeting with US intelligence officials at Trump Tower, Trump did not endorse the conclusion of Russian interference but said he would task his administration with devising a new plan to “aggressively combat and and stop cyber attacks”.

In a statement following his meeting with intelligence chiefs, Trump discussed digital intrusions in a generic sense, referring to “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people” that engage in digital theft, remaining agnostic on the intelligence agencies’ conclusion of Russian interference.

He said it was ultimately irrelevant, describing the data penetration and leak as having “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election”.

Brian Bartholomew of Russia-based security firm Kaspersky believes the hacks were the work of a group known by several code names, among them Fancy Bear, Sofacy and APT 29.

Bartholomew told the Guardian that while Kaspersky tends to shy away from attribution and focus on deterrence and analysis, it had already become difficult to reach any other conclusion than that Russian state actors were behind the Fancy Bear hacks.

“[Julian] Assange said it could have been a 14-year-old hacker – if you look at the collective operations of this group, there’s no way a 14-year-old has this much money, time and effort to conduct all of these operations together,” he said.

Kaspersky believes Fancy Bear controlled several operations attributed to Islamic State and other international groups, among them hacks on TV5Monde, the German Bundestag and the Democratic National Committee. Those attacks look sloppy and public by design, Bartholomew said.

“What it came down to was essentially plausible deniability,” he said. “You have an espionage group that is linked to a nation-state group; if you have a group that is targeting media or election systems, that’s taking it past the line that traditional groups used to follow.”

The fronts for Fancy Bear allowed a more organized and well-funded actor to pretend to be a gang of dissidents that just happened to act in a way that furthered the interests of the group backing them. “It all forms a line with the Russian sphere of influence,” said Bartholomew.

Bartholomew said he hoped the new report would contain at least some new technical details. Instead, it contains an analysis of Russian state news outlet Russia Today dating back more than four years, and the detail that among other tactics, the Russian GRU intelligence agency is said to have hired Twitter trolls.

You may download the declassified report in PDF format here…. assessing-russian-activities-and-intentions-in-recent-us-elections

You may read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.

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