#1 FAQs on Russian Hacking and the U.S. Election by ThirstyMan 15.12.2016 06:50


Why the fuss now? Who else has been hacked? Could Western analysts be wrong?


1. Didn’t we already know about Russia hacking the Democratic National Committee? Why all the fuss right now?

Yes we did. Way back in mid-June, the Democratic National Committee reported an intrusion into its computer network, and the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike publicly blamed Russian hackers after analyzing the breach. In July, after emails stolen from the committee appeared on WikiLeaks, Democratic members of congress also blamed the Russians, with Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook alleging that “It was the Russians who perpetrated this leak for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.”

It wasn’t until September that anonymous federal officials confirmed to The New York Times the intelligence community’s “high confidence” of Russian government involvement in the hack, if not the subsequent leak, and leaving doubt as to whether the hacks were “routine cyberespionage” or actually intended to influence the election. And it wasn’t until October that the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, went on the record to blame Russia—government actors, not, say, cybercriminals who happened to be Russian—declaring not only that “based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts ... only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” but that they were “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” Days later, emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta appeared on WikiLeaks.

So as of fall, the United States government had officially blamed Russia for the hacks, and stated that the hacks were intended to interfere with the American election. Until Friday, intelligence officials were not claiming that the Russians wanted specifically to help Trump win, as opposed to undermining faith in the overall process. Then The Washington Post disclosed a “secret CIA assessment”—again described by anonymous officials—declaring it “quite clear” that a Trump presidency was the ultimate goal of the hacks. A Times investigation published Tuesday provided more background on how the hacks actually worked. Yet the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has not publicly embraced the CIA’s findings, and the FBI has given a more “ambiguous” picture of Russia’s goals in congressional briefings. Meanwhile, Congress is planning to investigate.
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2. Who else has been hacked?
3. What does “hacking” actually entail?
4. How solid is the CIA’s case that Russia tried to tilt the election for Trump?

An unnamed official told Reuters on Tuesday that “ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can’t prove intent.” The Post noted this problem in its Friday report, citing “the United States’ long-standing struggle to collect reliable intelligence on President Vladi­mir Putin and those closest to him.” Since the end of the Cold War and especially since 9/11, American intelligence agencies have deprioritized Russia. The Post reported in fall, citing U.S. officials, that the “CIA and other agencies now devote at most 10 percent of their budgets to Russia-related espionage, a percentage that has risen over the past two years,” but is still dwarfed by the Cold War peak of about 40 percent.

As for the actual evidence of intent—which is the only truly new claim as of Friday—what’s publicly available is circumstantial, including Russian state TV’s pushing of Trump’s candidacy, and reports that the Republican National Committee, too, was hacked though suffered none of the same embarrassing leaks as the DNC.

(The RNC has denied it was hacked.) All of this was occurring in an international political context in which Trump was one of the most pro-Russian presidential candidates in recent memory, while Vladimir Putin personally blamed Hillary Clinton for inciting protests against his rule when she was secretary of state.

Meanwhile, the denials. Many of Trump’s surrogates have publicly suggested that Russia is the victim of a false-flag operation planned by U.S. intelligence—an assertion that doesn’t appear to be based on any fact in the public realm. Russian officials themselves have rejected the idea they are involved, as have Russian cyber-security experts, one of whom dismissed it as “a classic stereotype of the nineties and early 2000s.” They say that it’s virtually impossible to trace the origin of a hack.



#2 RE: FAQs on Russian Hacking and the U.S. Election by ThirstyMan 15.12.2016 08:16


Let Public See Hacking Evidence

Washington is in an uproar over reported findings by U.S. intelligence agencies that the Russian government used secret cyberattacks to help Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Trump called the charge "ridiculous," while deriding the agencies for their errors before the Iraq War. But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., demanded a full investigation, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants the Senate Intelligence Committee to take it on. President Barack Obama has ordered Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to undertake a review and report back before Obama leaves office Jan 20.

Judging what to believe here is difficult, though, because little information is available. News stories have been based on accounts of a secret CIA report, as revealed to reporters by anonymous government sources. One "senior U.S. official" told The Washington Post, "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."

Yet other intel officials familiar with the same raw information evidently disagree with the CIA's conclusions about it
: The Post also reports that, several days ago, a senior FBI official's briefing for lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee was, in comparison with the CIA's certitude, "fuzzy" and "ambiguous," suggesting to those in attendance that the bureau and the agency weren't on the same page. ...

If the CIA's view is true, it demands responsive action. But there is no way for the rest of us to know, because the people overseeing the CIA and FBI have not come forward with public statements. They should — and right away. ...

If there is firm evidence that Vladimir Putin had Russians hack the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and others to get material to transmit to WikiLeaks in an attempt to change the outcome of our presidential election, the American people should see that information. How better to keep such intrusions from occurring again? But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a member of Trump's transition team, told The Post that "there is no clear evidence — even now." ...

The opaque nature of all this leaves the American people buffeted between troubling speculation and the self-assured pronouncements of U.S. officials and politicians who may or may not have hard evidence supporting them. Among those doing the pronouncing is the president-elect, who has taken the unusual step of dismissing the work of intel analysts he'll soon oversee.

Did Moscow in fact deploy spycraft in an attempt to rig a U.S. presidential election? Only the agencies that investigated the matter have the information needed to assess the competing claims. Most of the time, these agencies have an understandable preference for secrecy. But this is one of those occasions when greater transparency is essential. ...


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