Russian scanning of state election infrastructure was “curtailed” after the U.S. publicly blamed Moscow for hacking several U.S. political organizations, the nation’s top intelligence official says. “The issuance of the statement and communication between our government and the Russian government seemed to have curtailed the cyber activity the Russians were previously engaged in,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday. “I was referring to cyber reconnaissance many states had observed prior to the statement,” Clapper clarified. Russia is believed to have been behind pre-election attempts to penetrate voter information databases in Arizona and Illinois. Clapper, together with the Department of Homeland Security, in October publicly blamed Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other political organizations this year, calling the thefts an intentional effort to interfere with the U.S. election process. But intelligence leaders at the time said they were not ready to confirm that the probing of state election systems was the work on Russian hackers.
Clapper on Thursday also declined to confirm that the Russian hackers who infiltrated the DNC provided those stolen emails to the anti-secrecy platform WikiLeaks, which made the documents public on the eve of the party’s convention in July.
WikiLeaks also steadily released emails stolen from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s personal account through the Nov. 8 elections. Those emails are also widely believed to have been stolen by the same Russian intelligence group known to be behind the DNC hack.
“As far as the Wikileaks connection, evidence there is not as strong and we don’t have good insight into the sequencing of the releases or when the data may have been provided,” Clapper said Thursday.