- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2016

Congressional leaders were warned last year about an apparent hacking campaign being waged against the Democratic Party by Russia, but were forced to stay quiet in lieu of potentially leaking details about a classified investigation into the matter, Reuters reported Friday.

Details about the operation were disclosed last summer to the so-called “Gang of Eight” inside a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, a year before it was revealed that hackers had breached the Democratic National Committee’s computer network, several sources confirmed to Reuters.

But because details about the investigation was classified as top-secret, lawmakers were required to keep the information under wraps and were forbidden from disclosing its existence, even to Democrats targeted in the attack.

Specifically, U.S. intelligence officials told lawmakers that two separate agencies of the Russian government or their proxies had set their sights on the DNC, Reuters reported. American officials continued to secretly investigate the matter in the months after, only publicly disclosing the high-profile hack and likely Russian involvement last month upon the publication of thousands of stolen DNC emails by the website WikiLeaks.

The leaked DNC emails led to the ousting of the party’s chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and have been followed by reports of similar attacks waged against Democratic officials and organizations, including the party’s official fundraising wing.

According to Reuters, DNC officials only learned of the breach last fall when the FBI questioned the party about its data security arrangements. Only last month, however, did investigators begin publicly blaming Russian hackers.

The FBI recently broadened the scope of its hacking probe upon learning that upwards of 100 private email accounts registered to Democratic politicians and groups were targeted, the New York Times reported earlier this week. Separately, Bloomberg said Thursday that a source familiar with the federal investigation said FBI officials now have a high degree of confidence that the campaign was the product of the Russian government — a claim the Kremlin has denied.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Thursday that he and his colleagues were breached last month on the cybercampaign being waged against various Democratic organization, but said he was unable to confirm either the substance of the briefing or any attribution.

Along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate’s intelligence panel, Mr. Schiff said the two have urged the White House to officially attribute the attacks to the hackers responsible as soon as the government has sufficient evidence to do so.

“If this indeed turns out to be a cyberattack and leak conducted by a foreign actor to influence our elections, that would be a grave matter that should come with serious consequences. That foreign actors may be trying to influence our election — let alone a powerful adversary — should concern all Americans of any party,” he said in a statement.

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