Justice Dept. indicts 12 Russian military officials on DNC, Clinton campaign hacks

Justice Dept. indicts 12 Russian military officials on DNC, Clinton campaign hacks

Published
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces the indictment at the Department of Justice on Friday, one day before President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Justice.gov)

UPDATED 1:30 PM EDT

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department unsealed an indictment Friday against 12 Russian military officials believed to have meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The indictment marks the latest development of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

According to the indictment, the Russian officials participated in a hacking campaign against the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as well as 20 state election boards and a software company that verifies voter registry information.

The indictment states that a unit of the Russian officials obscured their identities to disseminate the information, posing as American hackers via the website DCLeaks.com and as a lone Romanian hacker known as Guccifer 2.0.

The officials, who were identified as members of GRU, the Russian military’s intelligence arm, also are said to have provided the stolen information to an unnamed organization as a pass-through.

They reportedly discussed the timing of documents’ release with the entity in order to maximize the political impact.

The unnamed organization specifically asked for documents related to the Clinton campaign and the DNC, urging them to provide it before the Democratic National Convention.

“we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary … so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting,” the organization wrote in a message.

The organization released approximately 20,000 DNC emails on July 22, 2016. The timing coincides with WikiLeaks releasing 20,000 emails on that date.

During a press conference announcing the indictment, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the hackers corresponded with American citizens, but the indictment does not state that the Americans knew the hackers’ identities.

The Americans included a registered state lobbyist, reporters as well as a “person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.

At one point, the unidentified American tied to Trump was asked about information on a stolen DCCC document, to which they replied that it was “[p]retty standard.”

Rosenstein, who emphasized that the indictment is part of an ongoing investigation, also noted that the indictment does not specifically state that the officials were able to directly interfere with votes cast in 2016.

The indictment comes three days before President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

Trump has said he plans on asking Putin about Russian meddling in the election, but has expressed skepticism that he will receive an admission.

Rosenstein said he briefed the president on the information earlier this week. The president and first lady Melania Trump were at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, for tea with Queen Elizabeth II when the indictment was announced.

While the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia attempted to sway the election via cyber attacks, the indictment offers greater detail of the operation.

The officials reportedly used successful spear phishing techniques, in which fake emails were sent in an attempt to get users to provide the log-in information for their accounts.

The move was successful against the Clinton campaign as well as the DCCC.

Though the DCCC hack, the officials were able to find an access point into the DNC’s computer network.

Once inside the system for the entities, the officials were able to steal documents and install malware to monitor for additional information.

After the malware was detected and removed by the Democratic organizations, the officials then illegally accessed DNC information through a third-party cloud service, the indictment says.

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