RT stars in ODNI report on 'Russian activities and intentions' in US presidential election
The ODNI devoted seven pages to RT and its influence on the election “by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences." The report claimed "Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President-elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.”
RT’s pro-Trump campaign began in March 2016, according to the ODNI, by “consistently” casting Trump “as the target of unfair coverage from traditional US media outlets” that were “subservient to a corrupt political establishment.”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the report called “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” on Friday afternoon.
The report did not provide any hard evidence of Russian interference, relying instead on analyses from the CIA, FBI and NSA that drew on intelligence collected by the three agencies. The CIA and FBI have “high confidence” in the results of the report, while the NSA only has “moderate confidence.”
The key judgments made by the US intelligence community came from “a body of reporting from multiple sources that are consistent with our understanding of Russian behavior,” which was based on “the behavior of Kremlin-loyal political figures, state media, and pro-Kremlin social media actors, all of whom the Kremlin either directly uses to convey messages or who are answerable to the Kremlin.” Similar tactics, the ODNI concluded, were also used to drive “consistent, self-reinforcing narratives” about Ukraine and Syria.
As per the report, high confidence is defined as judgments “based on high-quality information from multiple sources,” while moderate confidence means the information is “credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence.”
The report claimed with “high confidence in these judgments” that Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” The goals of the campaign were “to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” The Russian government, under Putin, “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”
The Russian campaign didn’t just use RT, however. It was “multifaceted” that blended covert intelligence operations, including cyber activity, with official efforts by the government, third-party intermediaries and “paid social media users or ‘trolls.’”
The 25-page report was released ahead of schedule, as James Clapper, the country’s top spy, told a congressional committee on Thursday that the unclassified findings would be made public “early next week.”
The ODNI accused the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) ‒ Russia’s military intelligence agency ‒ of directing the hacks into the personal emails of Democratic Party officials through Guccifer 2.0, DCLeaks.com and Wikileaks. The cyber operation began in March 2016, and by May, the GRU had “exfiltrated large volumes of data” from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The material began appearing online in June.
Another cyber intrusion began in early 2014, as Russian intelligence “accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards,” the report said, adding that the systems the Russians compromised "are not involved in vote tallying.”
Russia’s influence effort was the “boldest yet” in the US, but was built on KGB intelligence activities during the Cold War, the report said. Such efforts will become the “new normal,” as “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts in the United States and worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.”
Indeed, Russia began a new “spearphishing campaign” immediately after Election Day, the report said. The efforts target “S Government employees and individuals associated with US think tanks and NGOs in national security, defense, and foreign policy fields.”
“This campaign could provide material for future influence efforts as well as foreign intelligence collection on the incoming administration’s goals and plans,” the ODNI added.
The ODNI accused the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) ‒ Russia’s military intelligence agency ‒ of directing the hacks into the personal emails of Democratic Party officials through Guccifer 2.0, DCLeaks.com and Wikileaks. The cyber operation began in March 2016, and by May, the GRU had “exfiltrated large volumes of data” from the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
“Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries,” the report said, contradicting claims by Clinton campaign officials that the documents were tampered with.
The intelligence community warned that much of its findings were not included because it is “a declassified version of a highly classified assessment.” Releasing more information would “reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future,” the report explained.