The FBI failed to notify scores of US officials that Russian hackers were trying to break into their personal Gmail accounts despite having evidence for at least a year, an investigation found. The Associated Press dedicated two months and a small team of reporters to go through a hit list of targets of Fancy Bear, a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage group, that was provided by the cybersecurity firm Secureworks. Previous investigations based on the list had shown how Fancy Bear worked in close alignment with the Kremlin’s interests to steal tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic party. The hacking campaign disrupted the 2016 US election and cast a shadow over the presidency of Donald Trump, whom US intelligence agencies say the hackers were trying to help. The Russian government has denied interfering in the American election. The special counsel Robert Mueller is leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump aides and Russia. Indictments have been made.
Nearly 80 interviews with Americans targeted by Fancy Bear turned up only two cases in which the FBI provided a heads-up. Even senior policymakers discovered they were targets only when the AP told them.
“It’s utterly confounding,” said Philip Reiner, a former senior director at the National Security Council, who was notified by the AP that he was targeted in 2015. “You’ve got to tell your people. You’ve got to protect your people.”
The FBI declined to answer most questions from the AP about how it had responded to the spying campaign. The bureau provided a statement that said in part: “The FBI routinely notifies individuals and organizations of potential threat information.”