Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking attacks and propaganda campaigns leading up to the 2016 elections, US intelligence agencies said in a declassified report Friday.
What's more, the Russian efforts had a very specific purpose: shake faith in US democracy and undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. "We further assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect [Donald] Trump's election chances when possible," the report (PDF) says.
The use of email leaks to affect the US election was "unprecedented," the report says, adding that Russia has used these techniques in influence campaigns before but not to this degree.
The report, which was issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, summarizes the findings from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency.
"These activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations," the report says.
It's the fullest public account to date from the US intelligence community on Russia's role in several hacks during the presidential campaign. It also resolves weeks of speculating about whether the three agencies reached the same conclusions. The report shows the CIA, FBI and NSA unified in the belief that Putin was directly involved in the influence campaign and aimed to boost Trump's chances in the election.
The report also talks about "Guccifer 2.0," an online persona claiming to be a lone Romanian hacker who hacked the Democratic National Committee. Documents leaked by Guccifer 2.0 were traced by intelligence officials to the Russian intelligence agency called the GRU, the report says. The agencies believe the GRU "relayed" emails and documents it stole from the DNC and "senior democratic officials" to WikiLeaks.
The conclusions in the declassified version are "identical to those in the highly classified assessment but this version does not include the full supporting information on key elements of the influence campaign," the report says in a footnote. The report's authors say the spy agencies need to protect their sources.
The classified version was shared with President Barack Obama on Thursday and with Trump on Friday morning.
Trump has challenged the idea that it's possible to even know whether Russia was behind the hacking attacks that stole emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee and other key Democratic party organizations and leaders.
After being briefed on the classified report Friday, Trump called the meeting "constructive" but didn't say Russia was conclusively behind the influence campaign.
Russia has denied claims it interfered with the election. The Russian embassy didn't respond to a request for comment.
More details from the intelligence community's report:
- The intelligence agencies expect the Russian government to apply lessons learned from this influence campaign to elections in countries allied with the US.
- Spy agencies think Putin favored Trump because Putin has had "many positive experiences" working with Western leaders whose business interests are tied to Russia.
- The agencies found that Russian bloggers had a hashtag ready to go in case Clinton won the election: #DemocracyRIP.
- The intelligence community didn't find any "evident forgeries" in the emails published by WikiLeaks.
- In analyzing Russian news coverage of the election, the spy agencies found that Russia-funded news source RT posted a number of stories that undermined Clinton's candidacy. The most popular video on Clinton was headlined "How 100% of the Clintons' 'Charity' Went to... Themselves." It was viewed more than 9 million times.
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