Russia ordered alleged hacking campaign 'to improve Donald Trump's election chances' claims US intelligence report
The report warned of the possibility of similar campaign on US allies
Intelligence officials concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the alleged hacks of the Democratic National Committee to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election, according to an declassified report.
The report comes a day after intelligence chiefs – including National Intelligence director James Clapper and NSA director Michael Rogers – testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on their findings in their investigation of the hacks.
"We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election," the report reads, "the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency."
Motivation behind Mr Putin's apparent order of the hacks, the report says, was rooted in a vendetta the Russian president had against the former Secretary of State.
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"[H]e has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and 2012," it adds, "and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him."
"We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US... election to future influence efforts."
According to the 25-page document, the leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovskiy celebrated the possibility of a Trump win. He apparently proclaimed that "Russia would 'drink champagne' in anticipation of being able to advance its positions on Syria and Ukraine."
Sections of the highly classified report delivered to President Obama on Friday were also made public. They reveal that the CIA, FBI, and NSA agreed that Russia sponsored social media "trolls" in addition to the cyber warfare to disseminate false and negative information about Ms Clinton to the benefit of Mr Trump.
"A journalist who is a leading expert on the Internet Research Agency claimed that some social media accounts that appear to be tied to Russia’s professional trolls—because they previously were devoted to supporting Russian actions in Ukraine—started to advocate for President-elect Trump as early as December 2015," it said.
Earlier on Friday, President-elect Trump met with intelligence agencies regarding the issue, and while he finally conceded the likelihood of a Russia-backed hack of US systems, he insisted they did not help him win the election.
"While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organisations including the Democratic National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines," he said.
Mr Clapper, who will leave his post come 20 January, said in his Thursday testimony that the hacks did not target the election itself. Instead, they targeted the DNC and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
“We have no way of gauging the impact ... it had on the choices the American electorate made," he said. "Whether or not that constitutes an act of war is a very heavy policy call that I don’t believe the intelligence community should make."
Earlier this week Julian Assange accused the Obama administration of trying to "delegitimise" Donald Trump's impending US presidency over the alleged hacking.
WikiLeaks editor Assange, who has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since the summer of 2012 for fear of being extradited to the US, was speaking to the Fox News channel's Sean Hannity after Barack Obama identified Russia as almost certainly being responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
WikiLeaks subsequently published more than 19,000 internal emails from the DNC, days before the Democratic convention was starting.
In one thread of correspondence from August 2014 Mrs Clinton sent an eight-point plan to Mr Podesta, at the time a counsellor to President Barack Obama, outlining a strategy on how to defeat terror group Isis which involved supporting Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq with military advisers.
The Obama administration ended up taking similar action to that described as desirable by Mrs Clinton. The exchange also showed the presidential candidate identify the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar as “clandestine” “financial and logistic” supporters of the terrorist group Isis. Both countries have donated to the Clinton Foundation.
“While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Isis] and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” Clinton reportedly wrote.
“This effort will be enhanced by the stepped up commitment in the [Kurdish Regional Government]. The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious US pressure.”
The emails also showed DNC staffers actively supporting Mrs Clinton when they were publicly promising to remain neutral during the primary elections between Mrs Clinton and her then-rival for the candidacy, Bernie Sanders.
The head of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, resigned over the disclosures.
CNN also severed ties with Donna Brazile, a paid commentator and a top DNC official, after leaked emails revealed she shared debate questions with Clinton’s campaign.
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Mr Trump at the time said blaming Russia was deflecting attention from the embarrassing material contained in the emails - although he had previously challenged Russia to "find the 30,000 emails that are missing" from Mrs Clinton's private server.
In an interview broadcast on Fox, Mr Assange said: "Our publications had wide uptake by the American people, they're all true. But that's not the allegation that's being presented by the Obama White House.
"So, why such a dramatic response? Well, the reason is obvious. They're trying to delegitimise the Trump administration as it goes into the White House.
"They are trying to say that President-elect Trump is not a legitimate president."
Mr Assange denied the information from the emails was obtained by Russia.
He said: " Our source is not a state party, so the answer for our interactions is no.
"But if we look at our most recent statement from the US government, which is on December 29, OK, we had five different branches of government, Treasury, DHS, FBI, White House, presenting their accusations to underpin Obama's throwing out 29 Russian diplomats.
"What was missing from all of those statements? The word WikiLeaks. It's very strange."
Asked if he thought WikiLeaks had changed the course of the US election, Mr Assange told Fox News channel: " Who knows? It's impossible to tell.
"But if it did, the accusation is that the true statements of Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta, and the DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz, their true statements is what changed the election."
Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, who is a close associate of Assange, has already dismissed the CIA's claims that Russia was the source of the emails as "bulls***".
The accounts by Murray also contradict the story advanced by the CIA.
The Washington Post reported on a 'secret assessment' by the CIA, which concluded that Russian intelligence hacked the Democratic National Committee's servers and that of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, specifically to help Trump win the presidency.
Mr Murray said: "I know who leaked them. I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it's an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.
“If what the CIA are saying is true, and the CIA’s statement refers to people who are known to be linked to the Russian state, they would have arrested someone if it was someone inside the United States.
“America has not been shy about arresting whistleblowers and it’s not been shy about extraditing hackers. They plainly have no knowledge whatsoever.”
Mr Trump's inauguration as US President is due to take place on January 20.
Independent News Service