US charges 12 Rus­sians over hack­ing of Demo­crat emails

The Guardian - - WORLD - Jon Swaine New York An­drew Roth Moscow

A dozen Rus­sians were crim­i­nally charged yes­ter­day with hack­ing and leak­ing the emails of se­nior Democrats dur­ing the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign.

Grand jury in­dict­ments against the 12 al­leged Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials were an­nounced by Rod Rosen­stein, the deputy US at­tor­ney gen­eral.

“The in­ter­net al­lows for­eign ad­ver­saries to at­tack Amer­ica in new and un­ex­pected ways,” he said.

Lament­ing what he called “par­ti­san war­fare” in the US around the on­go­ing Rus­sia in­quiry, Rosen­stein added: “The blame for elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence be­longs to the crim­i­nals who com­mit­ted elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence.”

The charges were filed in Wash­ing­ton by Robert Mueller, the spe­cial coun­sel, who is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion and pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with mem­bers of Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign team.

Trump is set to meet Vladimir Putin, Rus­sia’s pres­i­dent, on Mon­day. Rosen­stein said he had briefed Trump on the de­vel­op­ments.

Rosen­stein said those charged were op­er­a­tives of the GRU, a Rus­sian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence agency. He said they had “cor­re­sponded with sev­eral Amer­i­cans through the in­ter­net”, in­clud­ing an as­so­ciate of the Trump cam­paign.

Roger Stone, a Trump ad­viser, pre­vi­ously ac­knowl­edged he had ex­changed mes­sages with one of the on­line per­sonas ac­cused yes­ter­day of be­ing a front for Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence, but de­nied know­ing that true iden­tity. He told the Guardian his cor­re­spon­dence about the hacked doc­u­ments was “be­nign based on its con­tent, con­text and tim­ing” and “pro­vides ev­i­dence no of col­lab­o­ra­tion or col­lu­sion”.

Thou­sands of emails taken from the ac­counts of staff at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and John Podesta, Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign chair­man, were pub­lished by out­lets in­clud­ing Wik­iLeaks dur­ing 2016.

The leaks threw the Demo­cratic party into tur­moil.

US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies con­cluded that the ac­counts were hacked as part of a wide-rang­ing op­er­a­tion or­dered by Putin to dam­age Clin­ton’s run and as­sist Trump’s cam­paign.

Trump has con­sis­tently tried to cast doubt over the con­clu­sions of the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that he now con­trols, and high­lighted de­nials from Putin about the elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence. He con­tin­ued yes­ter­day to dis­miss Mueller’s in­quiry as a “witch-hunt”.

The in­dicted Rus­sians are also ac­cused of hack­ing into the com­puter sys­tems of US state elec­tion au­thor­i­ties. Rosen­stein said there was no ev­i­dence of vote tal­lies be­ing af­fected.

The Rus­sians used tech­niques in­clud­ing “spear-phish­ing” and spy­ing soft­ware, be­fore pub­lish­ing the emails through on­line ac­counts, which pur­ported to be in­de­pen­dent Amer­i­can and Ro­ma­nian hack­ers. Rosen­stein said both were op­er­ated by the GRU.

In Fe­bru­ary this year, Mueller’s team filed crim­i­nal charges against 13 Rus­sians and three Rus­sian com­pa­nies for in­ter­fer­ing in the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, us­ing so­cial me­dia and co­or­di­nat­ing with low-level Trump cam­paign ac­tivists.

Rosen­stein said the Rus­sians had waged “in­for­ma­tion war­fare” against the US in 2016, aim­ing to “spread dis­trust to­wards the can­di­dates and the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem in gen­eral”.

Mueller’s team has also charged Paul Manafort, Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, with fi­nan­cial crimes. Three other Trump cam­paign aides have ad­mit­ted ly­ing to the FBI.

The Krem­lin did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to ques­tions about the US in­dict­ment.

Putin and Trump will hold a closed tête-à-tête on Mon­day morn­ing, fol­lowed by a larger meet­ing be­tween the two del­e­ga­tions.

The in­dict­ment tar­geted 12 Rus­sian mil­i­tary of­fi­cers in two cy­ber­war­fare units in the GRU, up to the rank of colonel. They are charged with con­spir­a­cies against the US, ag­gra­vated iden­tity theft and money laun­der­ing.

Both GRU units are based in Moscow and tra­di­tion­ally charged with de­ci­pher­ing for­eign mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The GRU has been ac­cused of stand­ing be­hind Fancy Bear, one of two hack­ing groups ac­cused of in­fil­trat­ing US po­lit­i­cal par­ties in 2016.

The US has al­ready sanc­tioned six of­fi­cers from the GRU lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing Igor Korobov, the direc­torate’s head.


Hil­lary Clin­ton at a con­ven­tion yes­ter­day. Hacked emails were pub­lished dur­ing her cam­paign

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