National Security

Snowden doc shows NSA blamed Russia for hack of murdered journalist: report

Getty Images

The National Security Agency (NSA) knew that the Russian government hacked the email account of a prominent journalist the year before she was killed in Moscow, documents published by The Intercept show.

The 2006 murder of longtime Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya — who was gunned down in the elevator of her apartment complex — is widely believed to have been a contract killing. Politkovskaya was a noted critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and it has long been suspected that the murder was carried out on his orders.

The NSA compiled an internal file on Politkovskaya, which was exposed as part of the Edward Snowden leaks.

{mosads}Much of the document is unclassified and public, except for one top-secret segment:

“Russian Federal Intelligence Services (probably FSB) are known to have targeted the webmail account of the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya,” the passage reads.

“On 5 December 2005, RFIS initiated an attack against the account annapolitkovskaia@US Provider1, deploying malicious software which is not available in the public domain. It is not known whether this attack is in any way associated with the death of the journalist.”

Politkovskaya was known to use the email address “”

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, is the main successor to the KGB — once headed by Putin.

Putin has denied any involvement in Politkovskaya’s murder.

The FSB is thought to be behind the hacking group known as “Cozy Bear,” one of the two Russian intelligence groups that U.S. security firms believe breached the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service, is thought to be behind the other group known as “Fancy Bear.” In addition to the DNC, Fancy Bear is also believed to have breached Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails.

Despite their overlapping targets, the two agencies have different missions in the cyber realm.

While Fancy Bear is believed to focus on information warfare, Cozy Bear engages in more traditional intelligence maneuvers.

It is Cozy Bear that the NSA believes was responsible for hacking Politkovskaya.

Fancy Bear, meanwhile, is thought to be the group responsible for “doxxing” the DNC and Podesta by allegedly providing the stolen missives to WikiLeaks to publish.

Putin has denied any involvement in the hacks.

The documents exposing the NSA’s knowledge that Russian intelligence hacked Politkovskaya prior to her death comes as President-elect Donald Trump has continued to push back on the veracity of the U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia was behind the DNC hack.

After December reports emerged that the CIA believed the Kremlin made an explicit effort to ensure Trump’s victory, the president-elect attacked the agency, saying, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

He has long argued that U.S. intelligence doesn’t know who was behind the attacks, despite a formal announcement the intelligence community made in October blaming Russia.

“Once they hack, if you don’t catch them in the act, you’re not going to catch them,” Trump said earlier this month. “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place.”

While he acknowledged that “it could be Russia” that hacked the DNC and Podesta, he said: “I don’t really think it is, but who knows? I don’t know either. They don’t know and I don’t know.”

The issue has driven a wedge between Trump and the intelligence community he will soon head.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video