The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the CIA disagree on the purpose of the alleged Russian involvement in the Nov. 8 presidential election that resulted in Donald Trump winning the White House.
The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened to help Trump win the election, since Moscow launched cyberattacks on both the Republican and Democratic parties but only disclosed damaging information about the Democrats.
Th ODNI agrees with the CIA that the Kremlin was responsible for the hacking, but it concluded that the goal was not to help Trump, Fox News reported, citing government sources.
The FBI also concluded in late October that the main goal of the Russian hacking was “to distort” the U.S. presidential campaign and not to assist Trump.
The CIA conclusions have created a controversy in Washington, with members of Congress, including some Republicans, preparing to investigate the matter.
Trump has said he does not believe Russia interfered in the electoral process to help him, adding that the CIA’s theory has been “promoted” by Democrats “embarrassed” over their loss in the elections and unwilling to accept defeat.
The claim of Russian meddling arose following the publication by WikiLeaks of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and from John Podesta, the chair of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The DNC communications showed that that supposedly neutral body was anxious to ensure that Clinton defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries.
The government and the Democrats said the e-mails were obtained through hacking carried out by groups aligned with Moscow.
President Barack Obama’s administration announced last week that the intelligence agencies were in the process of putting together a report on the hacking to be submitted to Congress.
Ten members of the Electoral College sent an open letter to National Intelligence Director James Clapper asking for a briefing on the probe of alleged Russian interference.
Meanwhile, a close associate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said of the CIA assertions “They are absolutely making it up.”
Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that WikiLeaks obtained the DNC e-mails via a leak, not a hack.
“I know who leaked them. I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack. The two are different things,” Murray said.
The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), meanwhile, said in a memorandum that the allegations of Russian interference in the election were “sadly, evidence-free.”
“This is no surprise, because harder evidence of a technical nature points to an inside leak, not hacking – by Russians or anyone else,” the group of former intelligence officials said.
VIPS said its goal was “to cut through (the) uninformed, largely partisan fog,” surrounding the allegations of Russian involvement in the election.
“We have gone through the various claims about hacking. For us, it is child’s play to dismiss them. The email disclosures in question are the result of a leak, not a hack,” VIPS said.
The group, whose members include former CIA, NSA and State Department intelligence officers, said the information was likely removed physically, using some kind of data storage hardware.
“All signs point to leaking, not hacking. If hacking were involved, the National Security Agency would know it – and know both sender and recipient,” VIPS said.