Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in efforts to intervene in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, NBC News reported, citing two unnamed “senior U.S. intelligence officials.”
New intelligence links Putin directly to the leaks from hacked Democratic National Committee emails, the officials told NBC News with “a high level of confidence.”
A high-level intelligence source said the campaign began as a “vendetta” against Hillary Clinton, NBC News reported. The goal grew into an effort to expose corruption in U.S. politics and to undermine America’s international credibility, according to NBC.
Putin’s objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a “vendetta” against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to “split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn’t depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore,” the official said.
The latest intelligence said to show Putin’s involvement goes much further than the information the U.S. was relying on in October, when all 17 intelligence agencies signed onto a statement attributing the Democratic National Committee hack to Russia.
The statement said officials believed that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” That was an intelligence judgment based on an understanding of the Russian system of government, which Putin controls with absolute authority.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) December 14, 2016
Now the U.S has solid information tying Putin to the operation, the intelligence officials say. Their use of the term “high confidence” implies that the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible.
Meanwhile, there are reports of U.S. intelligence officials planning a probable retaliation against the Russian election hacks. The primary target here is, again, Putin and his personal financial empire which according to current estimates is worth around $85 billion. However, a former senior CIA official is skeptical about the move and believes that the U.S. may not be able to embarrass Putin since most Russians are already aware of allegations that claim that Putin has managed to amass a fortune through corruption.
The information was supplied from diplomatic sources as well as spies working for US allies, the officials said. Unnamed US intelligence officials said the information gave them a “high level of confidence” in the assessment, the US network reported.