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The Declassified Report on Russia’s Election Hacking Says Nothing New

The big, albeit unclassified, report on Russian hacking operations against the US is short on details, and doesn’t add anything new.

by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
Jan 6 2017, 10:20pm

Image: Nikolay Androsov/Shutterstock

If you were on the edge of your seat, waiting for the US government to drop its much-anticipated report on Russian hacking operations against American targets and particularly targeting the 2016 presidential election, I'm really sorry to say, you'll be truly disappointed.

The FBI, CIA and NSA released their joint report on Friday afternoon (a full three days before they announced they'd publish it) and it's a true bummer.

Read more: How Guccifer 2.0 Evolved From Sloppy Hacktivist to Professional Leaker

This is the public version of the report, so certain classified details have been omitted. Obviously, the NSA and CIA can't reveal too many details about how they know some of this stuff, because it could tip off Russia to their methods. But this report adds nothing we didn't already know from public information. The only significant statement is that, yes, American spies are convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin himself directed the hacking and influence campaign—something they already stated in early October.

The report also claims that Guccifer 2.0, a hacker who claimed to be a Romanian Gucci-obsessed "women lover," was indeed controlled by the Russians (as we speculated six months ago), and was the intermediary who passed data stolen from the DNC to WikiLeaks. Once again, nothing shocking here. Guccifer 2.0 themselves claimed to have sent documents to WikiLeaks in one of their very first blog posts, as well as in a private chat with Motherboard.

The report also spills a surprising amount of ink on Russia Today and other Putin-backed media organizations and anti-American propaganda outlets, in an apparent attempt to state something that should be obvious: Russia wanted to delegitimize the American democratic process and discredit Hillary Clinton.

Again, if you've been paying attention, you already knew Russia Today was a propaganda arm of Putin's government, and that there is an exceptionally organized pro-Kremlin troll army flooding Twitter and other social media, as journalist Adrian Chen masterfully reported more than a year ago (he's also alluded to in the public report).

Furthermore, Putin's disfavor towards the Clintons, and former the Secretary of State in particular, have been widely reported. (Putin held Clinton personally responsible for fomenting a strong opposition against him during the 2011 Russian election, according to TIME and other media outlets.)

Perhaps the classified version of the report, which was given to outgoing President Obama and incoming President Trump, contains more damning new information about Russia's involvement. Perhaps not. While this report appears to be largely a compilation of previously disclosed or known information about Russia's activities in the run-up to the 2016 election, it does further support the veracity of those prior revelations, and may have the effect of keeping Russia's cyber activities in the public eye.

Yet, all in all, this public version probably won't change the minds of skeptics who still don't believe Russia was behind the hack on the DNC. Although the available evidence is as close to a confirmation of that fact as we're likely to get.

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