Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY+REGION - ERIC TUCKER

WASH­ING­TON • Twelve Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers hacked into the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and the Clin­ton pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in the run-up to the 2016 elec­tion and re­leased tens of thou­sands of stolen com­mu­ni­ca­tions in a brazen ef­fort by a for­eign govern­ment to med­dle in U.S. pol­i­tics, ac­cord­ing to a grand jury in­dict­ment an­nounced Fri­day.

The in­dict­ment stands as the clear­est Jus­tice Depart­ment al­le­ga­tion yet of Rus­sian ef­forts to in­ter­fere, through il­le­gal hack­ing, in the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion be­fore Amer­i­cans went to the polls — and the first to im­pli­cate the Rus­sian govern­ment di­rectly. It had been sought by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller and comes days be­fore Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump holds a sum­mit with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have said the med­dling was aimed at help­ing the Trump cam­paign and harm­ing the elec­tion bid of his Demo­cratic op­po­nent, Hil­lary Clin­ton. The ef­fort also in­cluded bo­gus Face­book ads and so­cial me­dia post­ings that pros­e­cu­tors say were aimed at in­flu­enc­ing pub­lic opin­ion and sow­ing dis­cord on hot­but­ton so­cial is­sues.

The in­dict­ment lays out a sweep­ing ef­fort start­ing in March 2016 to break into key Demo­cratic email ac­counts, such as those be­long­ing to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, the Clin­ton cam­paign and the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. Among those tar­geted was John Podesta, the Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man.

The Krem­lin de­nied anew that it tried to sway the elec­tion. “The Rus­sian state has never in­ter­fered and has no in­ten­tion of in­ter­fer­ing in the U.S. elec­tions,” Putin’s for­eign af­fairs ad­viser, Yuri Ushakov, said Fri­day.

But the in­dict­ment iden­ti­fies the de­fen­dants as of­fi­cers with Rus­sia’s Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate of the Gen­eral Staff, also known as GRU in­tel­li­gence agency.

It ac­cuses them of covertly mon­i­tor­ing the com­put­ers of dozens of Demo­cratic of­fi­cials and vol­un­teers, im­plant­ing ma­li­cious com­puter code known as mal­ware and us­ing spearphish­ing emails to gain con­trol of the ac­counts of peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with the Clin­ton cam­paign.

By June 2016, the de­fen­dants be­gan plan­ning the re­lease of tens of thou­sands of stolen emails and doc­u­ments, the in­dict­ment al­leges. The mes­sages were re­leased through fic­ti­tious per­sonas like DCLeaks and Guc­cifer 2.0. The charges come as Mueller con­tin­ues to in­ves­ti­gate po­ten­tial co­or­di­na­tion between Rus­sia and the Trump cam­paign to in­flu­ence the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. The in­dict­ment does not al­lege that Trump cam­paign as­so­ciates were in­volved in the hack­ing ef­forts or that any Amer­i­can was know­ingly in con­tact with Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers.

The in­dict­ment also does not al­lege that any vote tal­lies were al­tered by hack­ing.

Be­fore Fri­day, 20 peo­ple and three com­pa­nies had been charged in the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

If the in­volve­ment of the GRU of­fi­cers in the hack­ing ef­fort is proved, it would shat­ter the Krem­lin denials of the Rus­sian state’s in­volve­ment in the U.S. elec­tions



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