The Slatest

The Declassified Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking Tells Us Very Little We Don’t Already Know

Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Marcel Lettre II, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in on Capitol Hill on Thursday.*

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that an unclassified version of a joint “intelligence community” report about Russian hacking would be released next week. Said report was in fact posted online this afternoon, and after reading it, the “Friday news dump” timing makes sense: The top-line takeaways in the document are mostly conclusions that have already been leaked or discussed publicly by figures such as Clapper himself. Moreover, since the release is an unclassified version of a report that presumably involves material obtained through intelligence-gathering operations that are still active, no information about the “sources and methods” supporting its conclusions is included.

To summarize, the report says that the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency believe that Russian hackers—directed ultimately by Vladimir Putin—hacked email accounts belonging to the Democratic National Committee and to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and then passed the material they obtained on to WikiLeaks through a third party. This was done, the report asserts, because the Russians believed that Donald Trump would be friendlier to their country’s interests, as president, than Hillary Clinton. And … that’s about it. Not counting intro pages or appendices, the report is five pages long and does not include any description of the actual evidence that Russian actors were responsible for the DNC/Podesta hacks (an assertion that’s supported by publicly available evidence analyzed by third parties) or the assertion that Putin ultimately directed the release of hacked material in order to help elect Donald Trump (an assertion that’s harder to verify independently).

The report’s final paragraph does involve what I believe is a new, ominous tidbit about ongoing hack attempts:

Immediately after Election Day, we assess Russian intelligence began a spearphishing campaign targeting US Government employees and individuals associated with US think tanks and NGOs in national security, defense, and foreign policy fields. This campaign could provide material for future influence efforts as well as foreign intelligence collection on the incoming administration’s goals and plans.

In other words: More fun times ahead!

*Correction, Jan. 6, 2017: Due to a photo provider error, this caption originally misspelled Marcel Lettre’s first name.