U.S. Intelligence Community Releases Public Report On Russian Hacking
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
We're following two major stories today. We'll have the latest details on today's shooting at the Fort Lauderdale Airport in a moment.
First, Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered a campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election. That's among the conclusions of a new intelligence report on Russia and hacking. The report represents the combined views of the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency. The declassified version was just made public this afternoon.
I asked NPR's Mary Louise Kelly if this has been the first time U.S. officials have publicly accused Vladimir Putin himself of interfering with the U.S. presidential election.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: It is, and so it's a big deal. The Obama administration has danced around saying that. Right up to President Obama, no one has actually come out and said it until today. And I think the reason is it's obviously a big deal to level that kind of charge at the head of state of a foreign country. The report also weighs in on what Putin's goals might have been in doing this.
And it says - I'm going to read you - this is a bit of a long quote, but it's important. (Reading) Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency. It goes on to say, (reading) we further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
SHAPIRO: Does the report have anything to say about whether Russia succeeded, that is, whether Russia changed the outcome of the election?
KELLY: An extremely important point of course, and the answer is no. The report does not make an assessment on the impact that these Russian activities had on the outcome of the election. In effect, the report says that's not our job.
The report does note Russian intelligence they believe got and maintained access to U.S. state and local electoral boards but - an important but - notes the types of systems that Russian actors targeted were not involved in vote tallying.
So the bottom line here, Ari - this report presents no evidence that Russia's efforts changed the outcome of the election. It says they tried but does not weigh in on whether they succeeded.
SHAPIRO: What does the report tell us about how Russia pulled this off?
KELLY: It describes it as a blend of cyber activity, secret covert activity - also efforts right out there in the public view - so Russian-state-owned media, such as RT, social media trolls. And the report notes Russia has a history of these influence campaigns. This one marks a significant escalation from anything U.S. intelligence has seen before.
SHAPIRO: We said that this report represents the views of all three big U.S. spy agencies. Do they all agree? Is this unanimous?
KELLY: On most points, there appears to be consensus but not all. As I was reading through, this one caught my eye. This is where the report is describing how Russia might have tried to help Trump's chances, and it says one way was, quote, "by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him." And it notes all three agencies agree with this judgment, but it says the CIA and the FBI have high confidence. The NSA, the National Security Agency, has moderate confidence.
Now, this is interesting because President-elect Trump has criticized, has mocked U.S. spy agencies for, among other things, getting intelligence wrong in the past, getting it wrong on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He has challenged U.S. intelligence. He said, why should I trust you now?
So I think this is the answer from the intelligence community. They lay out right in bold on page one that they have refined tradecraft over the last 10 years, that they have tightened standards, for example, for describing sources, how reliable they think the sources are, tightened standards for expressing where people don't agree, where there may be uncertainty. And I think the message behind those words is loud and clear. They got it wrong on Iraq. They have made changes to get it right in future. President-elect Trump, trust us now.
SHAPIRO: As you mentioned, Donald Trump has been very skeptical, and he was briefed on the classified version of this report today with more detail on sources and methods than the version that we've seen. Did he come out of the meeting persuaded?
KELLY: We don't know. He did put out a statement, his read-out of the meeting. He called it constructive. He said he has tremendous respect for the intelligence community. He does not say whether he was persuaded. So watch and wait.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, thanks very much.
KELLY: You're very welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.