The CIA’s assessment that Russian hackers intervened during the presidential election specifically to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton relies on a “thin reed” of evidence, an official with the U.S. intelligence community says.
The official, who is with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), is one of three sources who told Reuters that the CIA’s assessment, which was reported over the weekend, is flawed.
The DNI sources told Reuters that the intelligence community does not quibble with the CIA’s conclusion that Russia engaged in a major cyber attack operation against the U.S. But they say that there is not enough evidence to say that the attacks were specifically designed to help elect Trump president rather than to merely insert chaos into the election.
“ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can’t prove intent,” one of the three officials told Reuters. “Of course they can’t, absent agents in on the decision-making in Moscow.”
Federal authorities have said for months that they believe Russia is behind cyber attacks that have largely been directed at Democrats and the Clinton campaign. Many of the hacked documents, including those from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, were provided to and published by WikiLeaks.
The CIA arrived at its conclusion “based on the fact that Russian entities hacked both Democrats and Republicans and only the Democratic information was leaked,” one of the officials told Reuters.
“(It was) a thin reed upon which to base an analytical judgment,” the official added.
The DNI officials aren’t the first to question the CIA determination.
On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that an FBI counterintelligence official disagreed with the CIA’s conclusions during a briefing with Republican and Democratic members of the House Select Committee on Intelligence last week.
Despite the FBI’s refusal to accept the CIA theory, Podesta issued a statement on Monday calling on DNI director James Clapper to provide an intelligence briefing to a group of Electoral College electors before their Dec. 19 vote for president.
“We now know that the CIA has determined Russia’s interference in our elections was for the purpose of electing Donald Trump. This should distress every American,” wrote Podesta.
The move was sparked by a letter sent by 10 electors, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, calling on Clapper to provide the briefing.