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US Intel Agencies Investigating Covert Russian Influence Before Election

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are teaming up to investigate the “ambitious,” covert role Russia is playing in terms of manipulating the U.S. election process.

“[E]ven the hint of something impacting the security of our election system would be of significant concern,” a senior intelligence official told The Washington Post. “It’s the key to our democracy, that people have confidence in the election system.”

The problem of Russian covert influence campaigns is bad enough that according to one aide, when Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid received a 30-minute briefing on the Russians, he was “deeply shaken.”

To get to the bottom of this, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. is heading the investigative effort. The FBI, CIA, the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security are all in support.

Officials noted that the Russians might not even be interested in swinging the election one way or another, but may rather be focused on simply causing instability, which they can then use as part of a larger propaganda campaign to disrupt democracy building in former Soviet Union countries.

The Democratic National Committee hack was the most recent and high-profile case of Russian intrusion into government systems, although the Obama administration has not yet officially placed blame on the Kremlin. After the hack, 20,000 internal emails were leaked to WikiLeaks, causing massive embarrassment and prompting the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Russian President Vladimir Putin has brushed off attempts to point to Russia as the source of the hacks. According to Putin, these accusations are just a way to “distract the public’s attention.” Instead, Putin referred to the breach as a public service.

“Listen, does it even matter who hacked this data?’’ He told Bloomberg News. “The important thing is the content that was given to the public.”

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