US identifies agents behind Russian DNC attack’

The US has identified the Russian agents behind alleged hacking ahead of the presidential election won by Donald Trump in November, reports say.

The agents, whose names have not been released, are alleged to have sent stolen Democratic emails to WikiLeaks to try to swing the vote for Mr Trump.

Russia denies any involvement and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says Moscow was not the source.

Intelligence officials are due to brief Mr Trump, who doubts the claims, later.

Vice-President Joe Biden lambasted the president-elect on Thursday for attacking the intelligence community over the claims, saying it was “absolutely mindless” not to have faith in the agencies.

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At about the same time, President-elect Trump appeared to question in a tweet the intelligence agencies’ findings, asking why they decided not to request to examine computers belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

What are the hacking allegations?

Mr Biden said he had read a US intelligence agencies report outlining Russian involvement, the details of which are starting to emerge in US media.

According to CNN, the Washington Post and NBC News citing intelligence sources, agencies had intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election showing senior Russian government officials celebrating Donald Trump’s win over rival Hillary Clinton.

Clapper and Putin

Intelligence chief Gen Clapper (right) said Mr Putin’s “motivation” will be revealed in a report

They had also identified go-betweens who delivered stolen Democratic emails to the Wikileaks website, sources said, without providing further details.

NBC News says the alleged Russian hacking targeted not just the DNC but also the White House, joint chiefs of staff, the department of state and large US corporations.

An unclassified version of the report will be made public next week.

What do US politicians say?

Vice-President Joe Biden said in an interview with the PBS network that the report clearly confirmed Russia tried to “discredit the US electoral process”, with hacking part of a systematic campaign to undermine Mrs Clinton.

Her campaign manager, John Podesta, was among those whose emails on the DNC server were hacked.

Mr Biden also criticised Mr Trump for ignoring intelligence on the hack.

“The idea that you may know more than the intelligence community knows – it’s like saying I know more about physics than my professor. I didn’t read the book, I just know I know more.”

On Thursday, National Intelligence Director Gen James Clapper told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the hack, and said the motive would be revealed next week.

President Barack Obama last week ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US over the alleged hacking. Russia has said it will not reciprocate.

What’s Mr Trump’s view?

Mr Trump has repeatedly rejected allegations that the Russian government was behind the hacks.

On Wednesday, he repeated a suggestion that “a 14-year-old” may have been responsible for the breach.

On Thursday, he said he was a “big fan” of intelligence agencies, after months of casting doubt on the Russian link, but later went on to raise questions over how the Democratic Party responded to the security breach.

“How and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers? What is going on?” he asked in a tweet.

Last week, Mr Trump said he would announce information about hacking “on Tuesday or Wednesday”, but no announcement came.

Mr Trump’s inauguration will take place on 20 January.

What about Russian media? By BBC Monitoring

The pro-Kremlin media line is that the US authorities have failed to present any evidence to substantiate their presidential campaign hacking accusations.

The official Rossiya 24 TV channel says the “US secret services have still not supplied a single piece of evidence”, while the popular Gazeta.ru web site says Washington has “still not provided any convincing technical data”.

Opposition websites largely cover what the major US networks are reporting, and all note the Kremlin’s denial of involvement.

US reports focus on national security

US media have been voicing concern over the growing divide between their president-elect and the US intelligence community, with the New York Times editorial board singling out Mr Trump’s refusal to accept regular intelligence briefings.

“He is effectively working to delegitimise institutions whose jobs involve reporting on risks, threats and facts that a president needs to keep the nation safe.”

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius views the coming days as a test to see just how supportive of the intelligence system “Trump really is”, comparing his response to hacking claims to the “sort of information fog… Moscow seeks to spawn in its own propaganda campaigns”.

Fox News’ Chris Stirewalt says that after James Clapper’s testimony, it is “clear the nation’s spies are not going to let Trump & Co off the hook here. Their competency, integrity and patriotism have been called into question, and they are not going to let the matter be tabled.”

“Will the GOP [Republican Party] hunker down and allow this issue to dominate more weeks of the national discussion, or will they move on?”

Source: BBC

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