Intel head cautions against 'hyperventilation' over DNC breach

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Thursday said that reports treating Russian involvement in the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as fact are getting ahead of themselves, and he urged calm regarding the data breach.

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“I don’t think we’re quite ready yet to make a call on attribution,” Clapper said amid mounting evidence of Russia's involvement. “We all know there’s just a few usual suspects out there, but in terms of the process we try to stick to, I don’t think we’re ready to make a public call on that yet.”

Asked if his reticence was because he was conscious of the geopolitical implications of publicly naming Russia or because intelligence officials still maintain a degree of uncertainty themselves, he answered: “A little of both.”

The intelligence community has also not yet determined whether the hackers intended to influence the presidential election, Clapper said.

“I can’t say, and we don’t know enough to say to ascribe a motivation regardless of who it might have been,” Clapper said during remarks at the annual Aspen Security Forum.

The spy head was decidedly phlegmatic in his assessment of the incident, describing himself as "taken aback by the hyperventilation over this.”

“I’m shocked someone did some hacking. That’s never happened before,” he said drily.

But despite his unflappable response to questions, Clapper did note that an attempt by a foreign government to manipulate an election would be “a serious proposition.”

DNC officials have said they believe the hack, first reported in June, was the result of Russian actors. WikiLeaks published 20,000 emails taken from the DNC over the weekend.

Multiple security firms that performed forensic analysis on the DNC’s systems said they are virtually certain that the theft of thousands of internal emails was carried out by a pair of Russian intelligence groups.

Since then, anonymous intelligence officials close to the investigation into the breach have leaked to The New York Times that they have "high confidence" Russia is to blame. 

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign has claimed the Russian involvement is an attempt to influence the election, given the emails' publication shortly before the start of the Democratic National Convention.

"All I know is what the experts and the reporters are telling us. What they're saying is it was likely Russian actors," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said on MSNBC.