Intelligence Committee Backs Intel Community Assessment on Russian Election Hacking

The Senate Intelligence Committee found the declassified Jan 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian cyber-influence on the 2016 presidential election to be “a sound intelligence product” and supported many of its conclusions, according to an unclassified summary released Tuesday.

The summary contains initial findings from the committee about the methods and accuracy of the ICA report compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, and National Security Agency.

The committee found that there was “a significant escalation in a long history of Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. domestic politics” powered by “cyber-espionage and cyber-driven covert influence operations” and Russian propaganda.

“The committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions,” Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said in a press release. “The committee continues its investigation and I am hopeful that this installment of the committee’s work will soon be followed by additional summaries providing the American people with clarity around Russia’s activities regarding U.S. elections.”

The committee found that the ICA’s conclusions, such as “Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order” and Putin’s “preference” for then-candidate Donald Trump, to be “sound” and supported by analysis and evidence that was uncovered after the 2017 report, revelations that “continue to reinforce its assessments.”

“As numerous intelligence and national security officials in the Trump administration have since unanimously re-affirmed, the ICA findings were accurate and on point,” Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement. “The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton and to help Donald Trump. While our investigation remains ongoing, we have to learn from 2016 and do more to protect ourselves from attacks in 2018 and beyond.”

The summary also noted that the ICA failed to give a full assessment of the capabilities of Russian state-run media platforms RT and Sputnik for 2016. The original report only gives the capabilities of those organizations as of 2012.

It also notes that the difference in confidence in the ICA report’s conclusion that Putin “aspired to help” President Trump get elected by painting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in a negative light. The FBI and CIA rated this conclusion with “high confidence” but the NSA gave it “moderate confidence.” The committee found that disagreement to be “reasonable, transparent, and openly debated.”

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Adam Rayes is a 19-year-old journalism student at Western Michigan University who is completing his Junior credits at George Mason University this summer while interning here at HSToday. He's worked a crime beat for Western's newspaper and freelances for several organizations in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He enjoys hiking trails, Star Wars and being really, really bad at guitar. You can find Adam on Twitter @arayes17 and can reach him by email or phone at [email protected] or 248-595-1032.

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