NBC News tells us today that the CIA assessment of Russia’s hacking goes further than previous reports have suggested:
Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.
Putin’s objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a “vendetta” against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to “split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn’t depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore,” the official said.
….The latest intelligence said to show Putin’s involvement goes much further than the information the U.S. was relying on in October, when all 17 intelligence agencies signed onto a statement attributing the Democratic National Committee hack to Russia….Now the U.S has solid information tying Putin to the operation, the intelligence officials say. Their use of the term “high confidence” implies that the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible.
This comes from William Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Cynthia McFadden, who are all pretty careful reporters. Arkin adds this via Twitter:
My story tonight: 3 months work. I think Russians lucked into fantasy outcome. Absence of nuanced understanding of success part of our loss. https://t.co/tkLAeEt7Fs
— William M. Arkin (@warkin) December 15, 2016
This makes sense. Nobody had any idea that Donald Trump would run, let alone win the Republican nomination, when the hacking operation started. And even after Trump did win the nomination, nobody thought he had much of a chance to win. All of Putin’s hacking would have been for nought if he hadn’t had some help from James Comey and a rogue group of FBI agents in New York.
So yes, Putin got lucky. But that’s the way intelligence operations work. You try a lot of stuff and hope that a fraction of it pans out. This probably seemed like a low-cost-low-probability exercise when it was first started, and ended up succeeding beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.