U.S. Spy Report Blames Putin for Hacks, But Doesn’t Back It Up

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The long-awaited public report on Russia’s role in the DNC hack accused the Kremlin of working to elect Trump—without providing much new information to prove it.

Kimberly DozierNoah ShachtmanMichael Weiss report: U.S. spy chiefs presented their case at Trump Tower on Friday that Russia was behind the hacks that rocked the 2016 presidential election. But they didn’t help themselves by releasing a strongly-worded report that is scant on new evidence—and is, in some cases, a literal rehash of outdated information.

“The unclassified report is not particularly impressive. It basically confirms what those who had been paying attention already know. It may serve to limit Trump for purposes of plausible deniability. But this is a highly risk-averse document that shows deference to the protection of sources and methods over informing the American people. That’s a shame, as certainly more detail could have been safely provided.”

— Susan Hennessey, former NSA official, to The Daily Beast, in an email

“There was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” President-elect Trump said in a statement right after he met with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director Jim Comey, and NSA chief Adm. Michael Rogers.

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“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election [and with]… a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the intelligence chiefs announced through an unclassified report released after the meeting that sounded like it was coming from an alternate universe.

The night-and-day report and reaction hint at either a difficult relationship to come between the president and America’s spies, or a cagey response by a future commander in chief who is only beginning to realize how the chess masters in the Kremlin play the game of geopolitics.

The unclassified report is unlikely to convince a single skeptic, as it offers none of the evidence intelligence officials say they have to back it up—none of those emails or transcripts of phone calls showing a clear connection between the Russian government and the political intrusions. The reason—revealing how U.S. spies know what they know could endanger U.S. spy operations.

“There was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”

And it contains some out-dated information that seems slapdash considering the attention focused on it. Errors in the report were almost inevitable, because of the haste in which it was prepared, said one U.S. official briefed on the report. The report comes in three levels—unclassified, classified and then one so top secret that only a handful of intelligence professionals was able to view the whole thing. That most classified report is the one that went to President Barack Obama, and to Trump. The merely classified version will be briefed to lawmakers in the coming days. The classification issues alone meant it was “hard to transmit around” to be fact-checked, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

[Read the full story here, at The Daily Beast]

“The unclassified report is not particularly impressive,” Susan Hennessey, a former NSA official, told The Daily Beast in an email. “It basically confirms what those who had been paying attention already know. It may serve to limit Trump for purposes of plausible deniability. But this is a highly risk-averse document that shows deference to the protection of sources and methods over informing the American people. That’s a shame, as certainly more detail could have been safely provided.”

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That lack of specificity makes it easier for Trump to stay in the “see no, hear no, speak no evil” column. His post-spy-summit statement seemed to cherry-pick the intelligence, only mentioning parts of the briefing that confirmed his belief that election vote tallies were not tampered with, rather than the part that described how the Democratic National Committee and key Hillary Clinton campaign officials were hacked, and their emails released to devastating result.

Then again, maybe the scales did fall from his eyes behind those closed doors, and he did believe the “forensic evidence” the spies had gathered, as described by current and former U.S. intelligence officials, including emails between Russian officials celebrating the results of the election, and intercepted conversations showing they’d hoped to sow discord and doubt, whoever got elected.

Perhaps the president-elect just got a crash course in “Moscow Rules,” and is beginning to understand the world-class hacking machine at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s disposal. The rules, established for U.S. spies working in Moscow during the Cold War, include: Don’t harass the opposition; lull them into a sense of complacency; and pick the time and place for action.

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Chinese Military Tied to Prolific Hacking Group Targeting U.S. Aerospace Industry

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

In operation since 2007, “Putter Panda” is latest group to be implicated by researchers 

For Ars TechnicaDan Goodin reports: Investigators said they have identified a secretive hacking group that has spent years systematically targeting US partners in the space and satellite industry, most likely on behalf of the Chinese military.

“Putter Panda is a determined adversary group, conducting intelligence-gathering operations targeting the Government, Defense, Research, and Technology sectors in the United States, with specific targeting of the US Defense and European satellite and aerospace industries.”

— Crowdstrike researchers

The group typically gains a foothold in sensitive networks by attaching booby-trapped documents to e-mails, according to a 62-page report published Monday by Crowdstrike, a firm that conducts forensic investigations on behalf of customers who have suffered security breaches. When employees click on the documents, the attackers are able to gain control over their PCs. The attackers then use the PCs to take control of servers housing blueprints, customer lists, or other sensitive data. The group, dubbed as Putter Panda, is connected to Unit 61486 of the People Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) Third General Staff Department, according to the report. Read the rest of this entry »