On way out, top spy says outed Rus­sia eased hacks

Clap­per, due to exit Jan. 20, talks on Hill

Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - By Deb Riech­mann

WASH­ING­TON — Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence James Clap­per said Thurs­day that Rus­sia cur­tailed its elec­tion-re­lated cy­ber­ac­tiv­ity af­ter the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cused Moscow of try­ing to in­ter­fere with the pres­i­den­tial race.

The top in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial, who has held the po­si­tion since 2010, also said he had sub­mit­ted a res­ig­na­tion let­ter ef­fec­tive at the end of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s term.

Clap­per, in one of his last ap­pear­ances on Capitol Hill, de­fended the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse to al­le­ga­tions that in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials at the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, which over­sees the Mid­dle East, pres­sured an­a­lysts to dis­card in­for­ma­tion that re­flected poorly on the war ef­fort in Iraq and Syria.

He also pre­dicted that the in­for­ma­tion war­fare that Rus­sia has con­ducted since the Soviet era would likely con­tinue be­yond the U.S. elec­tion cy­cle.

Hacked emails from Demo­cratic Party of­fi­cials were re­leased by the an­ti­se­crecy group Wik­iLeaks dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, re­veal­ing de­tails em­bar­rass­ing to Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign.

Clap­per and the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity said in Oc­to­ber that based on the “scope and sen­si­tiv­ity” of the hack­ing ef­forts, only Rus­sia’s “se­nior-most of­fi­cials” could have au­tho­rized the hack­ing. Rus­sia has de­nied in­volve­ment.

“Af­ter the is­suance of the state­ment and the com­mu­ni­ca­tion that I know took place be­tween our govern­ment and Rus­sian govern­ment, it seemed to have Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence James Clap­per, 75, said his res­ig­na­tion let­ter is ef­fec­tive at noon In­au­gu­ra­tion Day. cur­tailed the cy­ber­ac­tiv­ity that the Rus­sians were pre­vi­ously en­gaged in,” Clap­per said.

He said he was re­fer­ring to the “cy­ber-re­con­nais­sance” that had been ob­served prior to the state­ment. “That sort of ac­tiv­ity seemed to have cur­tailed,” he said.

He said in­tel­li­gence agen­cies don’t have good in­sight on when or how Wik­iLeaks ob­tained the hacked emails.

The com­mit­tee chair­man, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., took Clap­per, along with two de­fense of­fi­cials who tes­ti­fied, to task about al­le­ga­tions that CENT­COM mas­saged in­tel­li­gence re­ports to make it ap­pear the U.S. was do­ing bet­ter than it was in Iraq and Syria.

Nunes said law­mak­ers have not seen any “mean­ing­ful cor­rec­tion ac­tions” taken by de­fense or in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials. The al­le­ga­tions are still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

Clap­per noted that a re­cent sur­vey of in­tel­li­gence em­ploy­ees has shown in­creases in the per­cent­age of em­ploy­ees who think their re­ports have been sat­is­fac­to­rily han­dled.

“This is a one-year pe­riod, but it does show a pos­i­tive trend,” Clap­per said.

On Ukraine, Clap­per pre­dicted that Rus­sia would sus­tain its pres­ence in the eastern part of the coun­try. Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Ukraine’s Crimean Penin­sula and its sup­port for sep­a­ratist rebels in the east brought re­la­tions be­tween the two ex-Soviet neigh­bors to the verge of full rup­ture.

Also on Rus­sia, Clap­per said he did not fore­see a change in Rus­sian ag­gres­sion in NATO coun­tries in light of Pres­i­dent- elect Don­ald Trump’s plan to seek im­proved U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tions.

He noted that Rus­sia’s only air­craft car­rier re­cently de­ployed to the Mediter­ranean Sea — an in­di­ca­tion that “the Rus­sians are there to stay.”

On his re­tire­ment plans, Clap­per, 75, said it “felt pretty good” to submit his for­mal let­ter of res­ig­na­tion Wed­nes­day. All top ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials sign res­ig­na­tion let­ters be­fore they de­part Jan. 20. Clap­per said his res­ig­na­tion let­ter is ef­fec­tive at noon on In­au­gu­ra­tion Day.

“I got 64 days left and I think I’d have a hard time with my wife any­thing past that,” he said.

JIM LO SCALZO/EPA

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