Wed, Jul 27, 2016 - Page 7 News List

FBI probes Democratic e-mail hack blamed on Russia


The FBI on Monday announced it was investigating the embarrassing hack of Democratic National Committee e-mails — a breach the campaign of Democratic presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton blamed on Russia, accusing Moscow of seeking to influence the US presidential election.

The e-mails leaked by Web site WikiLeaks, which reveal that party leaders sought to undermine the campaign of Clinton’s rival Bernie Sanders, threw the Democratic National Convention into disarray on its first day and prompted the party’s chairwoman to resign.

While a series of experts pointed the finger at Moscow, others urged caution. Russia denied any involvement.

“The FBI is investigating a cyberintrusion involving the DNC [Democratic National Committee], and are working to determine the nature and scope of the matter,” the agency said, making no mention of possible culprits. “A compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously, and the FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”

Both the White House and the US Department of State deferred to the FBI on whether Russia was to blame, but highlighted that cybersecurity has been an ongoing issue of concern between Washington and Moscow.

“We know that there variety of actors, both state and criminal, who are looking for vulnerabilities in the cybersecurity of the United States and that includes Russia,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

US Department of State spokesman John Kirby added: “I think we need to let the FBI do their work before we try to form any conclusions here about what happened and what the motivation was behind it.”

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov batted away any suggestion that Moscow was behind the hack. He spoke ahead of a meeting yesterday with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Laos.

Lavrov, in Vientiane for a regional security forum, shrugged when asked by reporters if Russia was responsible.

“Well I don’t want to use four-letter words,” he said cryptically, before greeting Kerry with a handshake.

Kerry said later, after his talks with his Russian counterpart: “With respect to Foreign Minister Lavrov, I did raise the issue of DNC. As you know the FBI is investigating the incident and it’s important for the FBI to do its work before we draw any conclusion.”

However, Clinton’s campaign team — looking to tamp an internal party uproar just days before she becomes the first woman in US history to be formally conferred the presidential nomination by a major party — was quick to point fingers.

“It’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping [Republican presidential nominee] Donald Trump,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told ABC.

Trump has made no secret of his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, leading some to conjecture that Putin was working to put the real-estate billionaire in the White House.

Trump sought to use the internal Democratic rift to his advantage.

“She worked very, very hard to rig the system,” Trump said of Clinton at a campaign stop in Virginia on Monday. “Little did she know that China, Russia, one of our many, many friends, came in and hacked the hell out of us.”

However, even if Russians were involved in the hack, they were not necessarily behind the leak, said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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