ODNI Says Classic Russian Influence Campaign Targeted U.S. Presidential Election

January 6, 2017
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The effort largely involved the spread of information, but no vote tallies were compromised.

Russian hacking and social media activities in the U.S. presidential election reflected “a significant escalation in directness, level of activity and scope of effort,” but they did not directly involve the vote tallying process, according to a declassified report by the U.S. intelligence community released today by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

And, while intelligence community findings support the charge that Russian President Vladimir Putin “and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances,” the intelligence community declined to make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The report notes that the CIA and the FBI have “high confidence” in the judgment that the Russian government sought to help Donald Trump by discrediting Secretary Hillary Clinton, and the NSA has “moderate confidence” in that finding.

The report says the Russian influence campaign followed a messaging strategy that “blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries and paid social media users, or ‘trolls.’” It compares this government covert influence effort with those of its Soviet predecessor.

The GRU, Russian military intelligence, used Guccifer 2.0 persona, DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks to release information in the campaign. Some information came from Russian hacks of the Democratic National Committee dating back to July 2015.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security assessed that the types of systems that Russians targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying. An October 2016 SIGNAL report on election cybersecurity pointed out the difficulty in affecting vote counts directly.

The Russian campaign, which the report says was ordered by President Putin, likely will serve as the basis for future operations, it notes. “We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies and their election processes,” the declassified report declares.

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To say it didn't affect vote tallying systems doesn't mean it didn't affect the number of votes tallied.

If they kept people from registering to vote by compromising systems or if they kept absentee voters from receiving their absentee ballots by hacking a website then they affected the number of votes a candidate received.

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