19:08 Sep. 16, 2016
Washington Post asked experts and intelligence sources on the means and reasons of Russian hacker attacks on US
The recent spate of embarrassing emails and other records stolen by Russian hackers is President Vladimir Putin's splashy response to years of what he sees as U.S. efforts to weaken and embarrass him on the world stage and his own people, according to Russia experts here and in the U.S. intelligence world and academia.
Putin is seeking revenge and respect, trying to reassert Russia's lost superpower status at a time of waning economic clout and an upcoming Russian election, according to interviews with specialists here and, in Washington, with a senior U.S. intelligence official, recently retired CIA operations officers in charge of Russia and the last three national intelligence officers for Russia and Eurasia analysis in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"He's saying, if you think you have the chops to do this — well, we do, too!" said Fiona Hill, the national intelligence officer for Russia during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations and who is now at the Brookings Institution.
First came the electronic break-ins of senior U.S. officials' emails, followed by the Democratic National Committee's email server just before the convention, then a few state election records; and this week the medical files of celebrated American Olympians, tit-for-tat revenge against the ouster of Russian athletes found to be illegally doping from this year's Olympics.
"He's giving us the finger . . . and the hacks are meant to intimidate the hell out of us," said Hill, who went through five troubled iPhones in six months after the release of her 2015 book, "Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin."
Where the Chinese government takes a long-term, strategic approach to stealing U.S. secrets — vacuuming up millions of security clearance résumés for future espionage use, and commercial and military trade secrets to aid its own development — the Russian game is a tactical one where context and timing matter greatly, experts agreed.
After years of keeping its hacking activities secret, Russia picked this particularly unsettling moment in U.S. politics to make its exploits public. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump already has said the U.S. political system cannot be trusted and has hinted that the election results may be rigged. Now, after public revelations of Russian hacking, the Democrats as well as U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies are worried about the integrity of the elections.