Media Walks Back Secret Russia Hacking Report

Media walks back Washington Post’s claims that a leaked 50 page secret report showed Russian celebrating hacking efforts aimed at influencing the election.

U.S. officials are trying to walk back reporting from the Washington Post on a leaked 50 page secret intelligence assessment which claimed the U.S intercepted communications of senior Russian Officials celebrating Russia’s role in hacking the election to help Donald Trump win the election.

Trump blasts Secret Report on Russian Hacking

President-elect Donald Trump blasts claims made about a secret report on Russian Hacking as a political stunt.

Officials have been in contact with CNN and NBC to clarify the Post’s reporting and redirect the media to focus on the thrust of the report and put less focus on the “Russian celebration”

According to NBC, “The official agreed to talk to NBC News after the Post published leaked details of the review because the official felt that the details the paper chose focused too much on the Russian celebration and not enough on the thrust of the report.”

In reporting on the Washington Post’s report both CNN and NBC follow a pattern of confirming original statements from officials but then hedge those statements by quoting officials of being uncertain about those statements.

NBC first asserts the statements reported by the Washington Post that “U.S. intelligence picked up senior Russian officials celebrating Donald Trump’s win”:

A senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge confirmed to NBC News that the report on Russian hacking delivered to President Obama Thursday says that U.S. intelligence picked up senior Russian officials celebrating Donald Trump’s win.

The statement is then immediately minimized by stating “the intelligence about the celebration” is just “as a minor part of the overall intelligence report” :

The source described the intelligence about the celebration, first reported by the Washington Post, as a minor part of the overall intelligence report, which makes the case that Russia intervened in the election.

The previous statement also laid out the charge that the intelligence report “makes the case that Russia intervened in the election.”

But NBC also hedges that statement, if not contradicting altogether, near the end or their story writing that the report  “does not speculate on whether Russian interference … affected the outcome of the 2016 contest.”

 “The report tracks Russian cyber activity during the 2016 presidential campaign, but also goes back as far as 2008. It does not speculate on whether Russian interference, including the alleged hacks of Democratic Party emails and the subsequent leaking on those emails on the internet, affected the outcome of the 2016 contest.”

NBC then lays out the charge the intercepted communications “illustrate Russian government planning and direction” to “undermine the integrity of the American political system.”

“Highly classified intercepts illustrate Russian government planning and direction of a multifaceted campaign by Moscow to undermine the integrity of the American political system,” said the official.

But that charge is immediately hedged by the official who urges “caution” in making an interpretations about the intercepts because they “because they are subject to interpretation.”

The source also noted, however, that communication intercepts are viewed with caution because they are subject to interpretation.

Donald Trump has blasted the leaked report as a political act.

Some have speculated the so-called “secret intercepted communications” might in fact be nothing more public communications from Russian officials such as Vladimir Putin’s open conciliatory letter to Donald Trump congratulating Trump on the win, Putin’s mocking the Democrats for being “shameless losers” that “don’t know how to lose with dignity” and other similar statements from top Russian officials in response to a non-stop stream of hacking allegations.

It is uncertain if these communications will be released to the public or will remain classified.

What is certain is that CNN similarly theme report on the intercepted communications quotes two separate officials giving contradictory statements. This is opposed to NBC which quotes only a single senior official. It also appears that the Washington’s Posts official source is NBC’s official source and is also one of CNN’s sources.

CNN’s report follows NBC’s pattern of laying out a charge and then hedging the statement.

CNN first lays out the charge that officials have identified the source Russia used to give Wikileaks hacked information:

US intelligence has identified the go-betweens the Russians used to provide stolen emails to WikiLeaks, according to US officials familiar with the classified intelligence report that was presented to President Barack Obama on Thursday.

Then CNN hedges the statement by pointing out Wikileaks denies Russia is the source of the leaked emails.

In a Fox News interview earlier this week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied that Russia was the source of leaked Democratic emails that roiled the 2016 election to the detriment of President-elect Donald Trump’s rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

CNN entirely ignores the fact there are credible reports DNC insiders leaked the emails in retaliation for the Democratic party’s interference in the primaries.

CNN the lays out the charge the the intercepted communications of top Russian officials expressing happiness with Trump’s win have given “that Russia carried out the hack and did so, in part, to help Trump win.”

Meanwhile, US intelligence has received new information following the election that gave agencies increased confidence that Russia carried out the hack and did so, in part, to help Trump win.

Included in that new information were intercepted conversations of Russian officials expressing happiness at Trump’s win

CNN then hedge’s the statement by quoting another official as categorizing the communications as merely congratulatory:

Another official described some of the messages as congratulatory.

It should also be noted that CNN’s reporting of the communications as “congratulatory” is much different than NBC and Washington Post’s claims the communications are” celebratory”

On the same note, CNN lays out the charge the communications are “just one of multiple indicators” of Russian involvement and Russians intentions.

Officials said this was just one of multiple indicators to give them high confidence of both Russian involvement and Russian intentions.

Yet CNN, like NBC makes it clear the report does not speculate on the alleged hacking affecting the election.

CNN then also hedges the statement making in clearly the classified report contains only “indicators” and no actual evidence to support the claims of so-called Russian involvement or Russian intention.

Officials reiterated that there is no single intercepted communication that qualifies as a “smoking gun” on Russia’s intention to benefit Trump’s candidacy or to claim credit for doing so.

Instead of CNN vouching that the secret report makes has evidence for any of the claims of Russian involvement CNN instead relies on a quote from Joe Biden given to in an interview to another news outlet to assert the claims.

Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview with PBS NewsHour that an unclassified version of an intel report provided to him will be released “very shortly” and will “lay out in bold print what” the US knows about the hacking.

“I think it will probably confirm what a lot of the American people think,” he said, adding that it would “state clearly” the Russians involvement in the hacking.

The to hedge those charges, CNN quotes Trump quoting Julian Assange who pointed out the hacks were so unsophisticated a novice teenage hacker could have carried out the alleged hacks.

n response to the interview, Trump tweeted on Wednesday, “Julian Assange said “a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta” – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!”

To summarize, the Washington Post claimed the report conclusively links Russia to the hacking efforts and further claimed the report contained secret intercepted communications of Senior Russian officials celebrating Trump’s win and celebrating their role in hacking the election to help Trump win.

The Post of course made these claims given the report is classified and knowing the actual contents of those communications are classified which gave them confidence no one would ever question their claims.

However, Officials are concerned that these communications will get out so they have reached out to CNN and NBC to walk back the claims made by the Washington Post.

Officials wanted to make it clear that they have no evidence to support their assessment.

Instead, they only have “multiple indicators” that gives them “increased confidence” or “high confidence” of Russia’s involvement which are proof of nothing.

Even then those “indicators” are very subjective and open to interpretation.

From RT:

‘Who gave them this and why?’ Trump blasts leaks of secret report on ‘Russian hacking’

Donald Trump criticized leaks to several media outlets detailing contents of a classified report on alleged Russian hacking of the presidential election. The leaks came before Trump’s own briefing on those details by the intelligence community.

The 50-page report was delivered to US President Barack Obama on Thursday, and is to be delivered to President-elect Donald Trump on Friday by top intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan, the Washington Post reports, one of several outlets that were given priority over the president-elect in learning the details of the document.

CNN and NBC News also reported on the classified report, sparking outrage from Trump.

“How did NBC get ‘an exclusive look into the top secret report he (Obama) was presented?’ Who gave them this report and why? Politics!” Trump said in a tweet.

According to the reports, US spies cited as evidence of Russian interference intercepted communications between Russian officials who called Trump’s victory a geopolitical success for Russia. The report also said that US intelligence identified the ‘go-betweens’ who allegedly handed over stolen Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks. The US media did not name those individuals or explain how they were linked to the Russian government.

Many Russian officials made no secret of their preference for a Trump presidency after his surprise win in November. The Russian parliament even stood and applauded at the news. The president-elect is perceived by many as capable of restarting relations with Russia with a clean slate, while his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was blamed for policies which in part have led to numerous conflicts between Russia and the US.

Both Russia and WikiLeaks deny allegations that the website had received sensitive emails from the Russian government. A WikiLeaks insider claimed that the DNC emails were not stolen, but rather leaked by a Democratic Party member who was disgruntled with the leadership’s bid to undermine the candidacy of Bernie Sanders in favor of Clinton.

Earlier, the FBI and DHS released a joint 13-page report on the alleged Russian interference with the US election. Dubbed ‘Grizzly Steppe’ by the American intelligence community, the operation was found to have involved, among other things, outdated Ukrainian malware and IP addresses that any cybercriminal could use in a hacking operation.

On Thursday, Clapper broadened the scope of what he described as a Russian effort to undermine US democracy to include RT’s reporting on the election campaign, unspecified ‘fake news,’ and communication through social media.

Source: RT

From the Post:

U.S. intercepts capture senior Russian officials celebrating Trump win

Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.

Other key pieces of information gathered by U.S. spy agencies include the identification of “actors” involved in delivering stolen Democratic emails to the WikiLeaks website, and disparities in the levels of effort Russian intelligence entities devoted to penetrating and exploiting sensitive information stored on Democratic and Republican campaign networks.

Those and other data points are at the heart of an unprecedented intelligence report being circulated in Washington this week that details the evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and catalogues other cyber operations by Moscow against U.S. election systems over the past nine years.

The classified document, which officials said is over 50 pages, was delivered to President Obama on Thursday, and it is expected to be presented to Trump in New York on Friday by the nation’s top spy officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan.

Given the president-elect’s skepticism about the intelligence community — particularly its conclusions about Russia — the Trump Tower briefing has taken on the tenor of a showdown between the president-elect and the intelligence agencies he has disparaged.

“The Russians felt pretty good about what happened on Nov. 8 and they also felt pretty good about what they did,” a senior U.S. official said.

U.S. officials declined to say whether the intercepted communications were cited in the classified version of the report commissioned by Obama, and they emphasized that although the messages were seen as strong indicators of Moscow’s intent and clear preference for Trump, they were not regarded as conclusive evidence of Russian intelligence agencies’ efforts to achieve that outcome.

“There are a variety of different exhibits that make the case, different factors that have provided the intelligence community with high confidence” that Russia sought in part to help elect Trump, said a second senior U.S. official who has reviewed intelligence findings on Russia’s cyber operations.

Officials emphasized that “signals intelligence,” as such communication is known, is treated by analysts with caution because statements can be taken out of context and sophisticated adversaries including the Kremlin are adept at spreading disinformation.

U.S. officials who have reviewed the new report said it goes far beyond the brief public statement that Clapper and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued in October, accusing Russia of having “directed” cyber operations to disrupt the U.S. election, and concluding, in a reference to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

The new report incorporates material from previous assessments and assembles in a single document details of cyber operations dating back to 2008. Still, U.S. officials said there are no major new bombshell disclosures even in the classified report. A shorter, declassified version is expected to be released to the public early next week.

Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 election and the question of how the United States should respond have become bitterly polarizing issues in Washington, sowing discord among Republicans on Capitol Hill, complicating the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations, and exacerbating an increasingly toxic relationship between the president-elect and U.S. spy services.

Senior lawmakers have called for a full investigation of the Russian hacking. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Clapper said that Moscow’s cyber assault on the election went beyond interference and into “activism.”

At Thursday’s hearing, Clapper said that U.S. spy agencies “stand actually more resolutely” behind conclusions they reached last year on Russia’s determination to undermine the U.S. election. He also appeared to take aim at Trump’s social media sniping at U.S. intelligence services, saying that “there’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”

Obama last week announced a series of measures designed to punish Russia, actions he characterized as “a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests.” Obama moved to impose economic sanctions on Russian intelligence agencies, expelled dozens of alleged Russian intelligence operatives from the United States, and shuttered two compounds that for decades had purportedly served as retreats for Russian diplomats but were described by the administration as locations for espionage activities.

Meanwhile, Trump continued his string of Twitter attacks, accusing U.S. intelligence agencies — with the word “intelligence” set off in quotation marks — of delaying a planned briefing on Russia and the election, a charge that U.S. officials disputed. He also appeared to side with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has denied that his organization got the hacked emails from Russia, over U.S. spy agencies, which think that WikiLeaks got the material through middlemen with ties to the Kremlin.

Trump appeared to retreat on Thursday, accusing the “dishonest media” of misrepresenting his comments about Assange. “The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence,’ ” he said, “when in fact I am a big fan!”

U.S. officials said the captured messages, whose existence has not previously been disclosed, added to the confidence level at the CIA and other agencies that Putin’s goals went beyond seeking to undermine confidence in America’s election machinery and ultimately were aimed at tilting a fiercely contested presidential race toward a candidate seen as more in line with Moscow’s foreign policy goals.

Even so, the messages also revealed that top officials in Russia anticipated that Clinton would win and did not expect their effort to achieve its goal.

Russian officials “were as surprised as the rest of the world,” said the second U.S. official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

“In this case, you do learn things after the fact based on how they feel about it,” the first official said, adding that the intercepts added to the intelligence community’s “shifting level of confidence.”

The intercepts also echoed some public comments in Moscow. “Trump understood the mood of the people and kept going until the end, when nobody believed in him,” Putin said at a news conference last month, adding with a wry smile, “except for you and me.”

U.S. intelligence officials think that Putin has for years held a grudge against Clinton, whom he accused of fomenting demonstrations in Moscow in 2011 and 2012 that embarrassed Putin and rattled the former KGB operative’s confidence in his grip on power.

Russia’s elite spy services have for years used cyberespionage capabilities to gather information on U.S. policymakers and political candidates — as the United States does on Russia. But Moscow’s decision to dump thousands of stolen emails into public view on WikiLeaks was seen as a provocative departure from the traditional lanes of espionage, U.S. officials said.

Clapper on Thursday said there is a difference between “an act of espionage, which we conduct, as well, and other nations do, versus an attack.”

U.S. officials said that Russia’s goals appear to have shifted over time. Moscow’s initial hacking operations targeted almost every major candidate, including Trump’s Republican primary rivals, as part of a fairly typical clandestine collection program.

Russia’s initial objective may have been merely to meddle and undermine the legitimacy of an assumed Clinton victory. But as Trump captured the GOP nomination and showed that he could remain competitive with Clinton, Russia’s aims became more ambitious, officials said. The final months of the race saw a steady stream of leaked emails that damaged Clinton’s candidacy, without any corresponding release to embarrass Trump.

Russia also used social media and “fake news” platforms as an “accelerant” to try to boost Trump and undermine Clinton, the second official said.

Source: The Washington Post

From NBC:

Top Russians Celebrated When Trump Won, Intel Report Says: Source

A senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge confirmed to NBC News that the report on Russian hacking delivered to President Obama Thursday says that U.S. intelligence picked up senior Russian officials celebrating Donald Trump’s win.

The source described the intelligence about the celebration, first reported by the Washington Post, as a minor part of the overall intelligence report, which makes the case that Russia intervened in the election.

“Highly classified intercepts illustrate Russian government planning and direction of a multifaceted campaign by Moscow to undermine the integrity of the American political system,” said the official.

The source also noted, however, that communication intercepts are viewed with caution because they are subject to interpretation.

The U.S. has also identified Russian actors who turned over stolen Democratic material to WikiLeaks, the source said.

The official agreed to talk to NBC News after the Post published leaked details of the review because the official felt that the details the paper chose focused too much on the Russian celebration and not enough on the thrust of the report.

Two top intelligence officials with direct knowledge told NBC News that the report on Russian hacking also details Russian cyberattacks not just against the Democratic National Committee, but the White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and American corporations.

Some of the hacks were successful, say the officials, while others were thwarted.

The report, on which Obama was also orally briefed, explains what intelligence agencies believe are Moscow’s motives, including, in part, a desire to disrupt the American democratic process.

But the intelligence analysts who prepared the report also concluded that the hacks were payback for the Obama administration’s questioning of Vladimir Putin’s legitimacy as president.

The report tracks Russian cyber activity during the 2016 presidential campaign, but also goes back as far as 2008.

It does not speculate on whether Russian interference, including the alleged hacks of Democratic Party emails and the subsequent leaking on those emails on the internet, affected the outcome of the 2016 contest.

[…]

Source: NBC

From CNN:

Trump to get briefing, Intel report says US identifies go-betweens who gave emails to WikiLeaks

Washington (CNN) US intelligence has identified the go-betweens the Russians used to provide stolen emails to WikiLeaks, according to US officials familiar with the classified intelligence report that was presented to President Barack Obama on Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump is scheduled to receive a briefing Friday.

In a Fox News interview earlier this week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied that Russia was the source of leaked Democratic emails that roiled the 2016 election to the detriment of President-elect Donald Trump’s rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, US intelligence has received new information following the election that gave agencies increased confidence that Russia carried out the hack and did so, in part, to help Trump win.

Included in that new information were intercepted conversations of Russian officials expressing happiness at Trump’s win. Another official described some of the messages as congratulatory.

Officials said this was just one of multiple indicators to give them high confidence of both Russian involvement and Russian intentions. Officials reiterated that there is no single intercepted communication that qualifies as a “smoking gun” on Russia’s intention to benefit Trump’s candidacy or to claim credit for doing so.

Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview with PBS NewsHour that an unclassified version of an intel report provided to him will be released “very shortly” and will “lay out in bold print what” the US knows about the hacking.

“I think it will probably confirm what a lot of the American people think,” he said, adding that it would “state clearly” the Russians involvement in the hacking.

In response to the interview, Trump tweeted on Wednesday, “Julian Assange said “a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta” – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!”

Trump has been publicly skeptical of Russia’s involvement in the hacking, as well as has been publicly deriding the US intelligence community for its unanimous conclusion that Russia hacked Democratic Party groups and individuals to interfere in the US presidential election.

Officials told CNN there’s been a disconnect between Trump’s remarks about the intelligence community and his behind-the-scenes behavior when he’s present at private intel briefings.

Source: CNN

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