Clapper: Election Cyber Attacks Were Directed By the Kremlin

Carlos Barria/Reuters via ZUMA

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said today that the intelligence community believed “more resolutely” than it did three months ago that Russia was behind a campaign of cyberattacks during the presidential election. The LA Times reports on his testimony before Congress:

Three U.S. spy chiefs testified publicly for the first time Thursday that the Kremlin’s most senior leaders approved a Russian intelligence operation aimed at interfering in the U.S. presidential race, a conclusion that President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly challenged.

….“We assess that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the recent election-focused data thefts and disclosures, based on the scope and sensitivity of the targets,” they wrote in joint remarks submitted for the hearing.

….U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that the Russian cyber operation sought to damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and to help Trump’s bid for the White House. Clapper did not confirm that judgment Thursday, although he indicated it would be included in the classified report. “Yes, we will ascribe a motivation,” he said. “I’d rather not preempt the report.”

The full House and the full Senate will be briefed on a classified version of the review next week, Clapper said. After those briefings, a declassified version will be made public, he said….“I intend to push the envelope as much as we can in the unclassified version because I think the public should know as much about this as possible,” Clapper said. “There are some fragile sources and methods.”

I don’t have anything to say about this since, obviously, I don’t know any more than what Clapper told us. We’ll just have to wait for the unclassified report and see what it says.

But I will comment on one thing: aren’t liberals supposed to be the ones who are skeptical of the intelligence community? Are we suddenly defending them just because it’s politically convenient?

There’s some of that going on, I’m sure. But the real reason is a lot simpler: the intelligence community doesn’t really have any motivation to make this stuff up aside from a generalized dislike of Russia. They are interested in keeping everyone on edge about cyberattacks, but that doesn’t require Russia to be involved in what happened. In fact, doubling down on the Russia story even after Trump won is nothing but bad for the CIA. All they’re doing is pissing off the incoming president, something they could easily avoid by keeping the cyberattack story but downplaying the Russia angle.

So this is sort of an admission against interest. The CIA’s interest is in getting more money for cyber security and cultivating a strong relationship with a new president. The fact that they’re doing just the opposite suggests pretty strongly that they believe in no uncertain terms that Russia really is behind this.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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