Senators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families

Senators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan pair of senators are calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether Russian intelligence services posed as an Islamic extremist hacker group that sought to harass U.S. military families.

Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenGroup files lawsuit to force Georgia to adopt paper ballots Treasury releases proposed rules on major part of Trump tax law Rubio slams Google over plans to unveil censored Chinese search engine MORE (D-Ore.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBusinesses fear blowback from Russia sanctions bill Senate GOP campaign arm asking Trump to endorse McSally in Arizona: report When it comes to drone tech, wildfire officials need the rights tools for the job MORE (R-Colo.) wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller Watergate's John Dean: White House counsel is 'doing right' by cooperating with Mueller MORE on Monday asking him to investigate whether a hacking group called the “Cyber Caliphate” launched an intimidation campaign against members of military families in 2015.

“If substantiated, the claims about APT28 posing as the Cyber Caliphate could be the first public evidence that influence operations have specifically targeted American military families,” Wyden and Gardner wrote in their letter to Sessions.

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“This story would be cause for concern if it ended there but many cyber security researchers now say the Cyber Caliphate is merely a front for APT28, the infamous group of hackers who serve the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin,” they continued.

The lawmakers noted that such efforts could result in serious consequences for U.S. military families.

“If left unchecked, such operations would threaten the personal liberty, financial security, mental health, and morale of our military families,” they wrote, adding that “at least one military spouse fled her home in fear.”

The Associated Press first reported in May that Russian intelligence was allegedly behind the harassment.

Military spouses were reportedly harassed in Wyden's and Gardner's respective states.

The announcement comes several hours after Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinFive things to know about Bruce Ohr, the DOJ official under fire from Trump Preet Bharara: ‘God bless the Deep State’ if it’s people who care about the law FBI chief: I'm trying to bring 'normalcy' in 'turbulent times' MORE announced that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE indicted a dozen Russian intelligence officers for hacking and releasing information from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election.