Dems urge Obama to release info on Russian links to DNC hack

Dems urge Obama to release info on Russian links to DNC hack
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Key Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday urged the White House to publicly release any information about Russia’s alleged involvement in the hack of the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) emails.

“Given the grave nature of this breach and the fact that it may ultimately be found to be a state-sponsored attempt to manipulate our presidential election, we believe a heightened measure of transparency is warranted,” Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinNearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Stripping opportunity from DC's children MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.) wrote in a Wednesday letter to President Obama.

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Feinstein and Schiff are the ranking members of the Senate and House Intelligence committees, respectively.

The two lawmakers asked that the administration declassify any intelligence assessments that could “illuminate potential Russian motivations for what would be an unprecedented interference in a U.S. presidential race, and why President Putin could potentially feel compelled to authorize such an operation, given the high likelihood of eventual attribution.”

There is little dispute that the hack itself — if not necessarily the release of the stolen emails — is the work of Russian intelligence groups. Multiple cyber forensics groups and the DNC have confirmed that the intrusion was almost unequivocally the work of two well-known groups associated with the Kremlin.

U.S. intelligence officials have told the White House they have “high confidence” Russia was behind the breach but have stopped short of confirming it to be an attempt to shift the results of the 2016 election, according to The New York Times.

But a growing chorus of Democrats — and some Republicans — are urging Obama to take public action in response to mounting evidence that Russia may have orchestrated Friday’s leak of the stolen emails in order to benefit GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE.

“If true, then the episode would represent an unprecedented attempt to meddle in American domestic politics — one that would demand a response by the United States,” Schiff and Feinstein wrote in their Wednesday letter.

The release of the emails — just days before Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote Women's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement MORE formally became the Democratic nominee — threw the first day of the Democratic National Convention into chaos and led to the resignation of committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Republicans have largely argued that the Clinton campaign is attempting to draw focus away from the damaging contents of the emails by casting the leak as a Russian attempt to bolster Trump's chances. But others have called for action against Russia.

“If foreign intelligence agencies are attempting to undermine [the democratic process] ... our government must do all that it can to stop such attacks and to seek justice for the attacks that have already occurred,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOvernight Health Care: CDC advises vaccinated to wear masks in high-risk areas | Biden admin considering vaccine mandate for federal workers Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division Four senators call on Becerra to back importation of prescription drugs from Canada MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Defense: Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill | House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors | US increases airstrikes to help Afghan forces fight Taliban On The Money: Schumer, Warren call on Biden to extend student loan pause | IMF estimates 6 percent global growth this year Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill MORE (D-Vt.) told the Department of Justice in a Tuesday letter.

“[Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] Soviet-style aggression has escalated to levels that were unimaginable just a week ago,” said freshman senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). “The United States must take serious offensive and defensive actions now. Russia must face real consequences."

The White House is in a delicate position if it chooses to publicly attribute the hack to Russia.

For one thing, attributing a cyberattack with absolute certainty is almost impossible, digital forensics experts say.

Further complicating the decision about whether to “name-and-shame” another nation state is the fact that the rules governing what is considered acceptable cyber behavior are far from settled.

The Obama administration has taken different approaches to various high-profile cyber incidents — decisions that onlookers say are based on both the nature of the attack and the level of the diplomatic involvement between the U.S. and the country in question.

The White House has largely tried to draw a distinction between hacking for corporate gain — which the U.S. condemns — and standard intelligence gathering, which the U.S. actively engages in itself.

The White House publicly blamed North Korea for hacking Sony Pictures in 2014. Some onlookers point to the antagonistic relationship between the two nations, arguing that the U.S. had little to lose by piquing the country’s dictatorial young leader Kim Jong-Un.

Conversely, Obama has declined to name the culprit behind the massive hack of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), uncovered last spring. The intrusion has been widely attributed to China but is believed to have been an intelligence-gathering mission.

The U.S. also maintains deep economic and diplomatic ties with Beijing.

Experts say if Russia is meddling in a U.S. election, it would be a particularly bold use of information warfare tactics — but one that fits with a historic pattern.

“Russia's cyber capabilities are well known,” Feinstein and Schiff wrote. “Its apparent willingness to use those capabilities to embarrass American officials and to seek to influence our foreign policy is not new.”