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Congress starts hacking probe

Intelligence officials to testify on Russia's alleged hacking of last year's US presidential elections

WASHINGTON: Senior US intelligence officials were set to testify in Congress yesterday on Russia's alleged cyber attacks during last year's election campaign.

Mr Donald Trump had earlier cast doubts on the intelligence agencies' findings that Moscow orchestrated the hacks.

The hearings come a day before Mr Trump is due to be briefed by intelligence agency chiefs on the hacks that targeted the Democratic Party.

Mr Trump is heading for a conflict over the issue with Democrats and fellow Republicans in Congress, many of whom are wary of Moscow and distrust his praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defence for Intelligence Marcel Lettre are expected to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by Republican John McCain, a vocal critic of Mr Putin.

Their testimony on cyber threats facing the US will come a week after President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies, and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged involvement in hacking US political groups in last year's election.

CYBER ATTACKS

US intelligence agencies said Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organisations and operatives before the election, a conclusion supported by several private cyber security firms. They also said the Russian cyber attacks aimed to help Mr Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Moscow denied the hacking allegations.

Several Republicans acknowledged Russian hacking during the election, but did not link it to an effort to help Mr Trump win. Some lawmakers, including Mr McCain, said a firmer response was needed to check Russian aggression in cyberspace and elsewhere.

He is among a handful of Republicans to join Democrats in pushing for a special committee to investigate Russia's political hacking, although that effort has lost traction in the face of opposition from Republican leaders in Congress.

Mr Obama instructed US intelligence agencies last month to conduct a full review of the election hacks. That review could be completed and delivered to Mr Obama as soon as Thursday, said sources familiar with the matter. - REUTERS

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