World

US identifies Russian officials who gave hacked material to WikiLeaks

CIA concludes Russian government escalated efforts from discrediting the US election to helping Mr Trump's campaign

WASHINGTON: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has identified Russian officials who fed material hacked from the Democratic National Committee and party leaders to WikiLeaks, at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin, through third parties, according to a new US intelligence report, senior US officials said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the CIA and others have concluded that the Russian government escalated its efforts from discrediting the US election process to assisting Mr Donald Trump's campaign.

The intelligence assessment was presented to President Barack Obama on Thursday and was expected to be briefed to Mr Trump yesterday.

Mr Trump has rejected the broad intelligence community's assessment that Russia staged cyber attacks during the election campaign to undermine Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Russia has rejected the hacking allegations.

"By October, it had become clear that the Russians were trying to help the Trump campaign," said one official familiar with the full report, speaking on condition of anonymity because the complete version is Top Secret.

LONG ROUTE

In some cases, one official said, the material followed what was called "a circuitous route" from the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, to WikiLeaks in an apparent attempt to make the origins of the material harder to trace, a common practice used by all intelligence agencies, including the US.

These handoffs, the officials said, enabled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to say the Russian government or state agencies were not the source of the material published on his website.

In an interview with Fox News this week, Mr Assange said he did not receive e-mails stolen from the DNC and Clinton aide John Podesta from "a state party."

Mr Assange did not rule out the possibility that he got the material from a third party.

Details of the report emerged as the top US intelligence official, Mr James Clapper, said on Thursday he was "even more resolute" in his belief that Russia staged cyber attacks on Democrats during the election campaign.

MEDIA ATTENTION

Another example of inferential evidence, the officials said, was that as time passed and the early leaks attracted media attention that undermined or eclipsed Clinton's campaign, the Russians increasingly focused their hacking "almost exclusively" on Democratic rather than Republican targets.

There was also strong resemblance - including the use of the same computer malware - to how the Russians have used against targets in Europe and the marriage of traditional espionage tactics used by Soviet and Russian intelligence such as bribery, blackmail and Internet vulnerabilities.

Officials added that Putin has devoted increasing resources and attention to exploiting Internet vulnerabilities.

For example, one official said, the Democratic databases and e-mail servers the Russians hacked also contained personal information that WikiLeaks has not published.

Such information could be used to search for financial, medical, browsing history and other records that can be used to target individuals for recruiting efforts by Russian spies. 
- REUTERS

hackingRussiaunited states