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    US Intel Report: 'Russia Did It!' Approach and Aftermath for US-Russia Ties

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    The United States intelligence community has released a report on Russia’s alleged meddling in the US electoral system.

    The document entitled "Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections" was jointly prepared by analysts of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA).

    According to the authors, the report covers "the motivation and scope of Moscow’s intentions regarding US elections and Moscow’s use of cyber tools and media campaigns to influence US public opinion."

    In the preamble to the report, the authors made all remarks needed for such an important document.

    For example, the published document is described as a "declassified version of a highly classified assessment" that has been submitted only to the US president and to people approved by the President.

    In such a context, the declassified version omits the input information and provides only the conclusive assessment US intelligence analysts.

    The authors also underscored that they used the most advanced and refined analytical methods, especially concerning critical assessment of collected data. Thus, the report is expected to be politically unbiased and technically accurate.

    Moreover, they pointed out the apparent difficulties of their analytical process when it comes to cyber activities.

    "The nature of cyberspace makes attribution of cyber operations difficult but not impossible. Every kind of cyber operation – malicious or not – leaves a trail," according to the document.

    The analysts stressed that their assessment of attribution of activities in cyberspace is not a "simple statement of who conducted an operation, but rather a series of judgments that describe whether it was an isolated incident, who was the likely perpetrator, that perpetrator’s possible motivations, and whether a foreign government had a role in ordering or leading the operation."

    Such a long and sophisticated preamble to the report is indicative of its considerable political importance though.

    The political significance of the document can be considered in two dimensions, according to an article in the Russian online publication Gazeta.ru.

    "On the one hand, the authors send a signal to the next US presidential administration that they are ready to cooperate and this report is just their job. On the other hand, finally the US intelligence community seems to be ready to express solidarity with the Barack Obama administration on Russia’s meddling in the election," the article read.

    The analysis came to a conclusion: "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.  Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments."

    "Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian 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,'" the report read.

    Furthermore, the report also read that the Russian military intelligence (GRU) used a hacker or a group of hackers known as Guccifer 2.0 and the whistleblowing project WikiLeaks, in order to publish leaked data, including emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

    WikiLeaks was quick to respond to the allegations, saying: "US government's declassified 'Russian hacking' report has the curious disclaimer that it is based on watching TV and reading Tweets."

    The assessment provided in the report is unlikely to have a serious impact on relations between Washington and Moscow, according to Ivan Kurilla, a professor at the European University at St. Petersburg.

    "I think that in this situation no one gains anything. Of course, nothing will change for those who don’t like Putin. As for those supporting Putin, this report is another example of his valor. I don’t think the situation will change," Kurilla told Gazeta.ru.

    Russian officials have repeatedly denied the US allegations calling them absurd and characterizing them as an attempt to divert public opinion from revelations of corruption as well as other pressing domestic issues.

    After receiving an intelligence briefing on the report, US President-elect Trump said the election outcome had not been affected. US House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan also suggested that the assessment should not be used by partisans to delegitimize Trump's presidency.

    Kurilla also suggested that President-elect Donald Trump is unlikely to embrace a more hardline stance towards Moscow, in a bid to shake off a reputation of a pro-Kremlin man.

    "There are no guarantees that this will work. If he does he will have to prove he didn’t have contacts with Russia. Such a defensive position is not good for Trump. He is likely to apply a different approach, stressing that Moscow is a friend, not a foe," Kurilla concluded. 

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    Tags:
    hacker attack, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), Guccifer 2.0, Donald Trump, United States, Russia
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