In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee—a regularly scheduled unclassified briefing on “foreign cyber threats”—Director of National Intelligence James Clapper did very little to preview a report on Russian “cyber” activities around the US elections scheduled to be delivered to President Barack Obama this week. Clapper did say that an unclassified version of the report would be released to the public early next week. However, that version is unlikely to contain any new specific evidence to support the intelligence community’s assertions that the Russian government directed hacking and propaganda operations against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party in an attempt to deliberately affect the outcome of the US election. “We plan to brief the Congress and release an unclassified version of this report early next week, with due deference to the protection of highly fragile sources and methods,” Clapper said in his opening statement. “We have invested billions, and we put people’s lives at risk to get such information. If we were to expose how we got this, we could just kiss that off. We’re going to be as forthcoming as possible.”
Clapper and National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers both asserted, however, that the intelligence community was even more certain of Putin’s involvement in the meddling in the US election than they were when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement in October. “We stand more resolutely now on that statement than we did on the seventh of October,” Clapper said.
While Clapper said it was almost certain that no votes had been changed by hacking, he noted there was no way to determine the full impact of Russia’s information campaign on voters’ opinions—”We in the Intelligence Community can’t tally that.”
Much of what Clapper and Rogers said in their testimony echoes data already available from commercial security firms and other sources, as well as the somewhat limited data shared in the DHS-FBI “joint analysis report” (JAR) issued last week. The report to be delivered to the president will, however, take in the whole of the alleged Russian campaign to influence the election, including the use of Russian state-funded media, social media, and “fake news” to spread disinformation. The report will likely also include specific data on how the intelligence community linked Putin to the sharing of breached data from the Democratic National Committee and others (including Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta) to Wikileaks.