On way out, top spy says outed Russia eased hacks
Clapper, due to exit Jan. 20, talks on Hill
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.