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8 months ago
U.S. intelligence agencies feuding with Republicans over Russian hacking
December 16, 2016 / 5:55 PM / 8 months ago

U.S. intelligence agencies feuding with Republicans over Russian hacking

By Mark Hosenball
    WASHINGTON, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Republican members of
Congress are complaining that U.S. intelligence agencies are
refusing to brief them widely on a classified CIA report that
concluded Russia hacked Democratic Party data in an effort to
help Donald Trump win the presidency.
    The Republicans said Director of National Intelligence James
Clapper has refused their requests for full briefings of
Congress' two intelligence committees. U.S. government officials
said the leaders of Congress and the chairmen of the two
intelligence committees, known as the "Gang of Eight," have been
briefed on the CIA's conclusion.
    Nevertheless, Representative Devin Nunes, the California
Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and is a
member of President-elect Trump's transition team, as well as
the Gang of Eight, has called for a briefing for his entire
committee on the CIA assessment, which the Washington Post
reported on last week.
    "The committee is vigorously looking into reports of
cyber-attacks during the election campaign, and in particular we
want to clarify press reports that the CIA has a new assessment
that it has not shared with us," Nunes said.
    Representative Ron Johnson, chairman of the House Homeland
Security Committee, said his panel also has asked for a briefing
but the CIA refused.
    "It is disappointing that the CIA would provide information
on this issue to the Washington Post and NBC but will not
provide information to elected members of Congress," Johnson
said in a statement on Friday.
    Three U.S. government sources, who all asked for anonymity
to discuss classified information, told Reuters that the while
the full congressional committees have not been briefed, the
congressional leadership has, which is the standard procedure
for briefing Congress on sensitive intelligence.
    The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in
a statement that because President Barack Obama last week
ordered the intelligence community to conduct a full-scale
"review of foreign efforts to influence recent presidential
elections - from 2008 to the present," the agencies would not
comment further until the study is completed.
    
    BRIEFING TO FOLLOW
    ODNI, which oversees all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, said
that when the review is complete, the U.S. intelligence
community "stands ready to brief Congress."
    The office said it also would make the study "available to
the public consistent with protecting intelligence sources and
methods."
    The CIA based its conclusion about Russia hacking to
influence the election not on irrefutable evidence but largely
on its analysis of the fact that the Russians hacked both
political parties while only publicizing information damaging to
Democrats and their presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton,
said a fourth U.S. official familiar with the agency's work.
    The FBI, which has responsibility for counterintelligence
investigations inside the United States, did not endorse the
CIA's finding because it does not meet the standards of evidence
necessary to win a conviction in a U.S. court or identify
individuals whose hacking violated American law, the fourth
official said.
    "The CIA's case would never hold up in court but it is
almost impossible to reach a different conclusion than the
agency did based on the selective nature of what the Russians
did and did not choose to publicize," the official said.
    ODNI has not endorsed the CIA's conclusion but does not
dispute it. Two sources said there was "no daylight" between
ODNI and CIA on the issue. An ODNI spokesman said the agency
would not comment beyond its official statement.
    The debate over Russian hacking, which three officials said
has continued after Election Day and extends beyond the election
to multiple U.S. government agencies, as well as to private
firms and individuals, also is opening a rift between Trump and
some Republican members of Congress.
    The president-elect continues to dismiss the intelligence
agencies' conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin
directed the hacking of this year's election but Republicans
such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator John
McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are
calling for a full investigation.
    On Friday, Senator Richard Burr, Republican chairman of the
Senate Intelligence Committee, announced his committee will
conduct a review in the new year of U.S. intelligence on Russian
activities, including the classified information that led to the
Obama administration's Oct. 7 statement that Moscow was behind
the hacking of U.S. political institutions. The review also will
cover Russian cyber activity more broadly, he said in a
statement.
    Burr said the review will include interviews of both Obama
and Trump officials, "including the issuance of subpoenas if
necessary to compel testimony."

 (Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by John Walcott and Bill
Trott)

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