The U.S. intelligence community identified a suspect thought responsible for supplying WikiLeaks with stolen Democratic National Committee documents within months of their publication during the 2016 U.S. presidential race, James Clapper, the Obama administration’s director of national intelligence, said in an interview released Friday.
“We had a suspect,” Mr. Clapper told the “Skullduggery” podcast. “I don’t know whether the suspicions we had at the time were conveyed [to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller] or whether they were validated.”
Intelligence officials were “pretty confident at the time but not sufficient enough to publicize it,” added Mr. Clapper, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general who served as the country’s top spy chief until January 2017.
A report issued by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence weeks before President Trump took office said that officials assessed with “high confidence” that Russian state-sponsored hackers breached the DNC and other Democratic targets during the run-up to the 2016 White House race and stole internal emails and documents subsequently released by outlets including WikiLeaks, the secret-spilling website run by transparency activist Julian Assange.
Government agencies and private security researchers have attributed the actual breaches to Russian hackers, but the identity of the conduit who gave the data to WikiLeaks remains a mystery.
“In April, Russia used a third party ‘cut-out’ to send more than 19,000 DNC emails and more than 8,000 documents to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, attempting to cover its tracks and to give WikiLeaks some degree of deniability in knowing the source of the leaks,” Mr. Clapper wrote in his book, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence.”
“The real point was it was an attempt to ensure [Assange] plausible deniability,” he said during the podcast.
Responding on Twitter to the claims, the official WikiLeaks account tweeted that Mr. Clapper’s book contained errors about the website’s releases.
“Clapper gets literally everything wrong—but admits he doesn’t know who our sources are. The published DNC emails go through to May 25—making ‘April’ an impossibility. There are 44,053 emails, not 19,000. There are 17,761 documents, not 8,000. Clapper appears not to be credible,” WikiLeaks tweeted Friday.
The Department of Justice appointed Mr. Mueller last May to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 race and any links between Moscow and Mr. Trump’s election campaign. The special counsel’s office has since filed charges against 20 individuals, including 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies accused of waging “information warfare against the United States” as part of a state-sponsored campaign targeting the 2016 election and Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Russia has denied hacking Democratic targets, and the White House has denied collusion between the Trump team and Moscow.
Mr. Assange previously said that the Russian government was not the source of the leaked emails.
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