Washington, Dec 9: President Barack Obama has ordered a review of all cyberattacks that took place during the 2016 election cycle, the White House said today as concerns over Russian interference mount.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Obama called for the review earlier this week, amid growing calls from Congress for more information on the extent of Russian interference in the campaign. "We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our elections and this report will dig into this pattern of malicious cyberactivity timed to our elections, take stock of our defensive capabilities and capture lessons learned to make sure that we brief members of Congress and stakeholders as appropriate," said Schultz.
Obama wants the report completed before his term ends on January 20, Schultz said. "We are going to make public as much as we can," he added.
"This is a major priority for the president." The move comes after Democrats in Congress pressed the White House to reveal details, to Congress or to the public, of Russian hacking and disinformation in the election. It also comes after President-elect Donald Trump rejected the intelligence community finding of official Russian involvement. Confidential emails from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, a top advisor to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, were steadily leaked out via WikiLeaks in the months before the election, damaging Clinton's White House effort. On October 7, one month before the election, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence announced that "the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations."
"These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process," they said. But in an interview published Wednesday with Time magazine for its "Person of the Year" award, Trump dismissed those findings. Asked whether the intelligence was politicized, Trump answered: "I think so." "I don't believe they interfered," he said.
"It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey." Worried that Trump will sweep the issue under a rug after his inauguration, seven Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee called on November 29 for the White House to declassify what it knows about Russian interference. The seven have already been briefed on the classified details, suggesting they believed there is more information that the public should know.
Then on Tuesday of this week, leading House Democrats called on Obama to give members of the entire Congress a classified briefing on Russian interference, from hacking to the spreading of fake news stories to mislead US voters. Republicans in Congress have also promised hearings into Russian activities once the new administration comes in.