WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday officially accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections, including by hacking the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations.
The denunciation, made by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, came as pressure was growing from within the administration and some lawmakers to hold Moscow accountable for a set of actions apparently aimed at sowing discord around the election.
“The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” said a joint statement from the two agencies. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.”
The DNC publicly disclosed the intrusions in June, saying its investigation determined that Russian government hackers were behind the breach. That was followed shortly after by a major leak of DNC emails, some so embarrassing that they forced the resignation of the DNC chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.
The administration also blamed Moscow for the hack of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the subsequent leak of private email addresses and cellphone numbers of Democratic lawmakers.
A series of other leaks of hacked material followed.
The digitally purloined material has appeared on websites such as DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks. It has included the private emails of former secretary of state Colin Powell and aides to former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
An online persona calling himself Guccifer 2.0 has claimed responsibility for posting the material. Those sites and that persona are “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” the statement said. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any connection to the hacks. “I know absolutely nothing about it,” he said in an interview last month with Bloomberg News. “Russia has never done anything like this at the state level.” Moreover, he said, “I could never even imagine that such information would be of interest to the American public.”
The administration noted that attempts to interfere in other countries’ political processes are not new to Moscow. Russian hackers have used hacking and other techniques to influence public opinion in Europe and Eurasia, it noted. On the eve of a critical post-revolution presidential vote in Ukraine in 2014, for instance, a digital assault nearly crippled the country’s central election commission website.