U.S. Accuse Russia Of Hacking Democratic National Committee And Other American Organizations
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
It's official. Russia is trying to meddle in the next month's election. That's according to U.S. intelligence officials who, on Friday, took the extraordinary step of directly accusing Moscow, accusing it of hacking the Democratic National Committee and other U.S. institutions. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly joins us in our studios. Mary Louise, thanks for being with us.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: My pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: What exactly do U.S. officials say Russia is doing?
KELLY: Well, this is point-blank charging Russia of trying to mess with the U.S. election. This is a statement that came out late yesterday from the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security. I can't think of a precedent in which the U.S. has directly accused another country of trying to sabotage American elections. There's two other points worth raising from this statement - one, leaks that appeared in three places they believe are consistent with - they're calling it Russian-directed efforts. One of those places is this hacker we've heard a little bit about, Guccifer 2.0. One is the website WikiLeaks.
The other is this website DC Leaks. So this is the first time we've seen a direct link between Julian Assange's operation WikiLeaks and Russia. The other point - and this is the big one - the statement says we believe only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized this. So they're pointing right at the top.
SIMON: Any idea about the timing of the statement? Why did they make it now?
KELLY: I think partly they were waiting for the investigation to play out. It's one thing to say it looks like this was coming from a server that belongs to a Russian company. It's another thing to say this was coming right from Putin and the Kremlin itself. The other thing is it will not have escaped anyone's notice we are today exactly one month away from the election. One senior administration official told NPR we wanted to give state and local officials time to get their act together and prepare.
SIMON: But realistically, what are the chances of sabotaging an election, of waking up on November 9 and finding that Maria Sharapova has been elected president of the United States?
KELLY: (Laughter) Well, that would be a good news story, Scott. I mean, the statement does try to reassure that Maria Sharapova is not likely to become the U.S. president. It says that it would be extremely difficult for someone to actually alter ballot counts or intrude on the election. I mean, that's partly because of the de-centralized way the U.S. holds its elections. Every state is different. It's partly because the voting machines aren't connected to the internet. But it acknowledges - and we know that Illinois, Arizona, possibly some other states have seen probing of their election systems. And this statement says they can trace those back in most cases to a Russian company. They're not saying to the Russian government a state of...
SIMON: Yeah, Russian company.
KELLY: ...With the states, yeah.
SIMON: What does the U.S. do?
KELLY: So they are considering everything from sanctions to a counter cyberattack to escalating this. The White House says some of the response you, the public, will see. Some of it you won't.
SIMON: How dangerous a moment is this for U.S.-Russian relations?
KELLY: That is a question I have been asking all over Washington. You put that to officials at the Pentagon and the White House and the CIA and you get a long silence and then they say it's dangerous. The relationship is strained on so many fronts. The last time that the U.S.-Moscow relations were this bad, there was no such thing as cyberwarfare, not in the way that we understand it. And now you have tension on Syria, tension on Ukraine, tension on cyber, tension on nuclear issues. You look at how this past week has played out, and it is hard not to see this as the Obama administration saying, OK, the gloves are coming off. And I think we've seen Russia's gloves have been off for a while.
SIMON: Yeah, yeah.
KELLY: So we've got a month till the election. It looks like this is going to be interesting.
SIMON: NPR's national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly, thanks so much, nice to have you here.
KELLY: My pleasure, Scott, nice to be here.
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