Ever the master spy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel, was personally involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and efforts to interfere in the American elections, U.S. and foreign intelligence officials tell ABC News.
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A representative for Putin today called the reports “funny nonsense,” but American intelligence agencies are failing to see any humor in the bold Russian cyberattacks and the apparent role of the Russian president.
People in the intelligence community directly involved in uncovering and tracking the Russian hack say a new flow of information has directly connected Putin to what began as a lower-level effort by the Russian military to infiltrate the computers of both Republican and Democratic figures.
Once the hackers were successful in breaching the Democratic National Committee’s systems, Putin became more directly involved with the effort, the intelligence sources say.
Russian officials have consistently denied any hacking activities around the U.S. election.
In October the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security released a joint statement that read, “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions.”
It continued, “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s seniormost officials could have authorized these activities.”
The appearance of documents from the DNC on WikiLeaks in July kicked off a period of seemingly endless negative news stories, embarrassed the Hillary Clinton campaign and led to the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Five months later, the hack continues to dominate headlines.
Since winning the election, Donald Trump has repeatedly questioned the intelligence community’s conclusions that the Russians were behind the hacking.
Last weekend, acrimony between Trump and the intelligence agencies that he’ll soon control reached a boiling point, with the two sides engaging in a war of words over the details of Russia’s cyberactivities that played out in national newspapers and television programs.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has ordered a full review of the hacks, and the White House said it will be completed and presented to Congress before the inauguration on Jan. 20.
While sources say a number of retaliatory actions have been recommended — including going after secret bank accounts believed to belong to Putin — no responding action has been taken.