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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 WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel US to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK MORE (D-Ore.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerElection Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue Democrats must end mob rule GOP senators praise Haley as 'powerful' and 'unafraid' MORE (R-Colo.) wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsBeto O'Rourke on impeachment: 'There is enough there to proceed' Rosenstein to appear for House interview next week Emmet Flood steps in as White House counsel following McGahn departure 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 RosensteinConservative rep slams Rosenstein's 'conflicts of interest' The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump, Obama head to swing states with Senate majority in balance Rosenstein to appear for House interview next week 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.