The Obama administration said it was “confident” that Russia was behind recent hackings of emails about upcoming US elections in an attempt to interfere with the process.
The announcement marks the first time the US administration has officially accused Russia of hacking into US political systems. Earlier in the week, the two countries broke off formal talks about a ceasefire in Syria.
“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a joint statement.
“The recent disclosures of alleged hacked emails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” the statement added. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there.”
The announcement was referring to the breach of Democratic National Committee emails and the sites of other Democratic Party-linked organizations disclosed over the summer.
Officials told CNN that Friday’s announcement follows long deliberations within the Obama administration as to whether and when to take this step. They have had confidence on the assessment for some time, with the only question being whether to go public. Previously law enforcement and intelligence officials had pointed to Russia anonymously, with lawmakers among the few to go on record accusing Moscow of being behind the intrusions.
Russia, however, rejected the US accusations.
“This is some kind of nonsense again,” said Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, according to the state-run Interfax News Agency.
He added, “Putin’s website is attacked daily by several tens of hackers. Many of the attacks are traced to US territory.