Leading Republican members of Congress say the intelligence community has rebuffed their requests for briefings on reports of recent Russian hacking, as several former U.S. intelligence officials dispute the CIA’s reported contention that Russia actively hacked into email systems to influence the U.S. presidential election.
Sen. Ron Johnson said Friday that intelligence officials turned down his request for a briefing in the wake of recent reports that the CIA believes Russia actively meddled in the election to boost President-elect Donald Trump.
“I asked for … a briefing from the CIA this morning,” Mr. Johnson, who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said on Fox News. “They refused a briefing, so I don’t know what’s up with that.”
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that Russia is hacking and spreading disinformation and propaganda,” said Mr. Johnson, Wisconsin Republican. “I don’t like it, we need to push back on it, but this been known for quite some time.”
Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said earlier this week it is “unacceptable” that the intelligence community would not fulfill a request from the committee to be briefed on Thursday about cyber attacks that occurred during the campaign.
Administration officials have regularly provided briefings to members and staff on Capitol Hill, including after election day, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The office said the intelligence community won’t offer comment until a review of foreign efforts to influence recent elections is complete.
Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Friday pledged to investigate the matter in the next Congress.
“The Committee will follow the intelligence wherever it leads,” said Mr. Burr, North Carolina Republican. “We will conduct this review expeditiously, but we will take the time to get it right and will not be influenced by uninformed discourse.”
Meanwhile, several former intelligence officials outlined this week why they believe signs in the situation point to an inside leak, and not a hack by an outside actor.
If hacking were involved, the National Security Agency would likely have digital footprints that could be used to back up the CIA’s claims, wrote the former officials, led by former NSA official William Binney.
“In sum, given what we know of NSA’s existing capabilities, it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone — Russian or not — attempting to interfere in a U.S. election by hacking,” Mr. Binney and the officials wrote in the memo, published by Consortium News.
Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and associate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign were, in fact, leaked by a whistleblower disgusted with the Clintons.
“Neither of [the leaks] came from the Russians,” Mr. Murray told the Daily Mail. “The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks.”