Sunday, December 11, 2016

Russian Hackers and American Hacks

At WSJ, "The CIA that misjudged Putin for years is now sure of his motives":

Somewhere in the Kremlin Vladimir Putin must be laughing. The Russian strongman almost certainly sought to undermine public confidence in American democracy this year, and as the Obama Administration leaves town it is playing into his hands.

That’s the real story behind the weekend reports that U.S. intelligence services have concluded that Russia intervened to assist Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The stories are attributed to “senior administration” officials who won’t go on the record but assert murky details that are impossible to verify without seeing the evidence.

Mr. Trump is denouncing the claims with his usual subtlety, but he has a point about their timing and nature. “I don’t want anyone hacking us,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News Sunday, while blaming the leaks on Democrats. “I think it’s ridiculous” and “I don’t believe it.”

Democrats are still in shock from their defeat, and many want to add the Kremlin to FBI Director James Comey, fake news and the Electoral College as excuses that cast doubt on the legitimacy of Mr. Trump’s victory.

The new information in these latest stories is less about new intelligence than it is a judgment about Russian motives. Other sources who have seen the intelligence say there’s strong evidence that actors linked to high-level Russian officials hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) website. The Russians then posted them on sites they set up or handed them to WikiLeaks, though even the WikiLeaks transfer isn’t known for sure. The Administration made public the conclusion about the DNC hack months ago.

The difference now is that the intelligence community is said to have concluded with “high confidence” that the Russians did the hacking to help elect Mr. Trump. But we’re told the evidence for this conclusion is far from definitive, and multiple intelligence services offered no such judgments when briefing the House Intelligence Committee on the election-related hacks last week.

The New York Times cites claims from its sources that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee website but then didn’t leak any documents. But other sources say that while it’s clear the Russians were probing the RNC website, it isn’t clear they penetrated it enough to grab emails. This is in contrast to the months the Russians spent roaming through the DNC site. We’re also told that there’s no definitive intelligence about who hacked Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta. His emails posted on WikiLeaks were arguably more politically damaging than those from the DNC.
Still more.