A classified document confirmed to be from the National Security Agency (NSA) was posted online Monday that detailed that Russian hackers from that nation’s intelligence services allegedly hacked their way into election websites just days before the 2016 national election. An intelligence contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, has been charged with leaking the top secret report and is being charged on the Espionage Act.
Although it has long been established by intelligence and election officials that the hacking done during the election did not effect the ultimate outcome of the presidential election, the leaked document from the NSA does continue to shine a light on the alleged tampering by the Russians in the national election. CBS News reported that Reality Leigh Winner allegedly leaked the classified NSA report to the website The Intercept. CBS News also independently confirmed that the secret document, which was redacted in places, was authentic.
The top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, said of the leaked classified document, according to ABC News, that “we now have verified information” that Russian intelligence services were in fact involved in last year’s cyber attacks on the U.S. election.
“In any other circumstances this would be an earthquake,” McCaskill said at the start of a committee hearing. But with “everything” going on in Washington at present, the suspected Russian tampering scandal has not gotten enough attention. “This was Russia… this was an international attempt to impact the elections of the United States of America.”
Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin has publicly denied Russian involvement in any attempts to sway the American presidential election. U.S. President Donald Trump has both agreed that the hacking activity could have been carried out by Russians and disagreed with reports blaming Russia for the cyber attacks.
But the leaked classified NSA report, which was actually compiled last month, puts the entire Russia election tampering allegations in a new light. It corroborates a U.S. intelligence community report issued in January (per ABC News): “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help [Donald] Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary [Hillary] Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
According to The Intercept, the leaked NSA document revealed that Russian intelligence “executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials.”
Reality Leigh Winner was arrested Saturday (June 3). The 25-year-old intelligence contractor has been accused of gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information, according to the Washington Post. On Saturday, she was questioned by the FBI and reportedly admitted to “intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting at issue,” according to the affidavit. Winner became the first person to be charged after a leak investigation during the Trump administration, which is notable in that the president has been adamant that the flood of leaks plaguing his 4-month-old administration be fully investigated and the perpetrators charged and prosecuted.
The Russia election tampering scandal has been ongoing since well into the 2016 presidential campaign, when it was revealed that the Democratic National Committee’s computers were hacked. It was later discovered that hackers infiltrated computers associated with the Republican National Committee as well.
The Trump administration has not gone unscathed in the scandal, with several members of Trump’s presidential campaign as well as his administration appointees being implicated in alleged dealings with Russian operatives — even though any wrongdoing has been denied by everyone allegedly involved. Those same members are currently under investigation by various government agencies into alleged collusion with Russian operatives either regarding business dealings or in the tampering with the 2016 election.
[Featured Image by Tashatuvango/Shutterstock]