May 18, 2016: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warns Clinton and Trump their campaign networks are being hacked.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Credit: ABC News)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Credit: ABC News)

Clapper publicly comments, “We’ve already had some indications” of hacking on the computer networks of the two frontrunners in the presidential race. He warns, “We’ll probably have more.” He suggests the hackers could be working for foreign governments.

V. Miller Newton, who advises federal agencies on data security, says foreign spying on campaign sites is inevitable. “These campaigns are not working on encrypted platforms. It’s a matter of when, and how serious of an impact it is going to have on this election.” (The Associated Press, 5/18/2016

It will later emerge that a hacking attack on the DNC [Democratic National Committee] was already discovered, in late April 2016, after staffers noticed unusual activity on the DNC’s computer network. (McClatchy Newspapers, 6/14/2016)

July 11, 2016: Paul Ryan’s attempt to block Clinton from getting intelligence briefings is denied.

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James Clapper (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

A request from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) to prevent Clinton from receiving intelligence briefings after the late July 2016 Democratic National Convention is denied.

Just a few days after Ryan made the request, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper tells Ryan in a letter  that he “does not intend to withhold briefings from any officially nominated, eligible candidate. … Nominees for president and vice president receive these briefings by virtue of their status as candidates, and do not require separate security clearances before the briefings. Briefings for the candidates will be provided on an even-handed non-partisan basis.”

The briefings given both major party candidates are intended to prepare them with the information they’ll need to run the country if they win the general election.

Ryan made the request after FBI Director James Comey said that Clinton and her aides had been “extremely careless” handling highly classified intelligence. Ryan wrote in the request, “There is no legal requirement for you to provide Secretary Clinton with classified information, and it would send the wrong signal to all those charged with safeguarding our nation’s secrets if you choose to provide her access to this information despite the FBI’s findings.” (CNN, 7/11/2016)

July 28, 2016: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper shows reluctance to blame Russia for recent hacks on US political entities.

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Credit: public domain)

Clapper says the US government is not “quite ready yet” to “make a public call” about who is responsible for the hacking on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computer network that resulted in almost 20,000 emails being released by WikiLeaks. However, he hints that one of “the usual suspects” is likely to blame. He also says, “We don’t know enough [yet] to … ascribe a motivation, regardless of who it may have been.”

Yahoo News reports that there is a vigorous debate inside the Obama administration about whether to publicly blame the Russian government for the hacking. One unnamed senior law enforcement official says the Russians are “most probably” involved, but investigation is ongoing.

Clapper is said to be amongst a faction who is resisting publicly blaming the Russians, since it is the kind of activity that intelligence agencies regularly engage in, including the US at times. Clapper also publicly comments, “[I’m] taken aback a bit by … the hyperventilation over this,” He adds in a sarcastic tone, “I’m shocked somebody did some hacking. That’s never happened before.” (Yahoo News, 7/29/2016)

September 14, 2016: The US intelligence community has declined to conduct a required damage assessment caused by the classified information on Clinton’s private email server.

Joel Melstad, spokesperson for the of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), says, “ODNI is not leading an [intelligence community]-wide damage assessment and is not aware of any individual IC element conducting such formal assessments.”

Most of the above “top secret” emails sent or received on Clinton’s server related to the US drone program in Pakistan. According to the Washington Free Beacon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “agreed with security officials who argued against the need to carry out the damage assessment. Intelligence officials argued in internal discussions that since many details of the drone missile program targeting terrorists were disclosed in earlier leaks unrelated to Clinton’s use of a personal email server, gauging the damage done by her conduct would be difficult, and possibly unnecessary.”

However, “Other officials said Clapper’s decision appeared based on political considerations and was an effort to avoid embroiling American intelligence agencies in charges they were attempting to influence the outcome of Clinton’s bid for the White House.”

Representative Mike Pompeo (Credit: Politico)

Representative Mike Pompeo (Credit: Politico)

A June 2014 counterintelligence directive, ICD-732, states that “damage assessments shall be conducted when there is an actual or suspected unauthorized disclosure or compromise of classified national intelligence that may cause damage to US national security.”

Representative Mike Pompeo (R) says, “FBI Director [James] Comey has made clear that there was highly classified and sensitive information on Secretary Clinton’s personal server. It is imperative that [a damage assessment] be conducted to determine what harm to American national security may have occurred and, just as importantly, to prevent the massive mishandling of sensitive materials from ever happening again.”

Angelo Codevilla (Credit: public domain)

Angelo Codevilla (Credit: public domain)

Angelo Codevilla, a former US intelligence officer, says, “Common sense, the intelligence community’s standard practice, as well as a 2014 directive, require assessing the damage done by any such compromise.” She also asserts that Comey’s “vague and evasive” comments regarding Clinton’s handling of classified information confirm that a significant number of secrets were compromised.

Michelle VanCleave (Credit: public domain)

Michelle Van Cleave (Credit: public domain)

Michelle Van Cleave, a former national counterintelligence executive, similarly asserts, “Whenever there is a significant compromise of national security information, as the FBI’s report confirms happened here, it is essential to conduct an assessment of the damage in order to protect plans, programs, or lives that may be at risk.” There have been reports that Clinton’s emails revealed the names of some undercover CIA officers as well.

Kenneth deGraffenreid (Credit: The Institute of World Politics)

Kenneth deGraffenreid (Credit: The Institute of World Politics)

Kenneth deGraffenreid, a former deputy national counterintelligence executive, says, “Intelligence agencies hate conducting damage assessments that could show people that somebody did something wrong, or improper, or did it poorly. They never want that known. It’s a bureaucracy that does one thing: protects itself.”

He says Congress should force the intelligence community to conduct the damage assessment, since it will find no political advantage in doing it voluntarily.

However, the Free Beacon reports, “Congressional sources said the House and Senate intelligence oversight committee are reluctant to require the damage assessment since it would codify in writing the false claim that no damage was caused to the drone program by the compromise of secrets by Clinton and her aides.” (The Washington Free Beacon, 9/14/2016)

October 7, 2016: The US government formally accuses the Russian government of hacking and publishing emails related to US political entities.

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James Clapper (Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper releases a statement in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security claiming that leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the US election process. … We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

The New York Times comments that the statement does “not name President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but that appear[s] to be the intention.”

Many thousands of emails and other documents have been posted in recent months on the WikiLeaks website, but WikiLeaks won’t say where their leaks come from. Two newly created websites attributed to DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 have also posted leaks. Both groups claim to have no ties to the Russian government, but the US government claims otherwise.

The statement adds that US intelligence agencies are less certain who is responsible for “scanning and probing” online voter registration lists in various US states in recent months. Those “in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company,” but the statement doesn’t assert that the Russian government is responsible.

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Kerry (left) and Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva to discuss the Syrian crisis on September 9, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse)

The Times notes that the “announcement [comes] only hours after Secretary of State John Kerry called for the Russian and Syrian governments to face a formal war-crimes investigation over attacks on civilians in Aleppo and other parts of Syria. Taken together, the developments mark a sharp escalation of Washington’s many confrontations with [Russia] this year.”

US officials had debated for months whether or not to formally accuse Russia, and if so, when. An unnamed “senior administration official” says that with only about a month to go before the November presidential election, President Obama was “under pressure to act now,” in part because the closer the declaration would be to election day, the more political it would seem.

It is unclear what action the US will take in an attempt to punish Russia, if any. A range of options are being considered, including economic sanctions and covert cyber attacks against Russian targets. (The New York Times, 10/7/2016)