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US intelligence chiefs argued in a joint statement that Russian officials of the highest rank were behind the authorization of attacks on the US presidential election. However, they have not yet presented any irrefutable evidence or new evidence.

CIA said Thursday that it identified the Russian officials who provided materials to Wikileaks, which were extracted from the email servers of the Democratic National Committee and some top Democrats.

The officials have been directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin through third parties, added the agency.

In a joint statement presented at a hearing on external cyber threats to the US, director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, the director of NSA, Michael Rogers and Secretary Defence Information Officer, Marcel Lettre, wrote that “only Russian officials of the highest rank” could have authorized the operation.

“The Russians have a long history of interfering with the election, in their country and of other nations,” said Clapper during the hearing held by the Committee on Armed Services of the US Senate.

“I’ve never met a campaign of interfering so directly with the electoral process as we have seen this year. […] This one was a campaign on several fronts. So hacking was only one part of the campaign, as it also required the classic propaganda, misinformation, false news “.

“Russia has clearly adopted a more aggressive position by enhancing cyber espionage operations, disclosure of stolen data through these operations and by attacking critical infrastructure systems,” he added.

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In December 2016, US President Barack Obama ordered the intelligence community to report on cyberattacks and potential Russian interference with the US presidential election last year.

An unclassified version of the report – which lacks sensitive details – will be published early next week.

New Evidence?

Thursday’s hearing did not provide any new evidence to support the charges. When he was asked by the senators to provide additional proof, Clapper said he can not do it in public, adding that it is likely to undermine the sources and the operations of the intelligence community.

Obama was briefed on the report Thursday, and his successor, Donald Trump, will receive the same information today.

The meeting with the President-elect takes place amid fears that he already created tense relations with some key elements of the establishment’s national security.

Trump has repeatedly denied the alleged hacking revelations and promised a positive change with Russia and its president after being officially invested on January 20.

On Wednesday, Trump quoted WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, to suggest that anyone, “even a 14 year old child”, could have been behind the hacking. The day before, Donald Trump said he’s thinking to reduce the staff of the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Image credit: Medill DC/ flickr.com

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