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Shortly after intelligence officials delivered a highly-classified briefing on the Russian government’s alleged interference in US politics to President-elect Donald Trump, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) published an unclassified version of the report. This version outlines the majority of the joint conclusions of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. While it contains no major new hacking revelations, what is new is its focus on the role of Russia’s state-funded media organization, known as RT, and its international satellite media operations.
Ars is still preparing a more thorough analysis of the report and its findings. But the gist of the CIA, NSA, and FBI analysts’ findings is that the Russian Federation’s president, Vladimir Putin, directly ordered intelligence agencies to collect data from the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, and other organizations, and he orchestrated an effort to discredit Clinton, the Democratic party, and the US democratic political process through “information operations.”
We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgements.
In an appendix to the report, the agencies laid out a detailed, publicly-sourced analysis of RT’s alleged propaganda operations, including television programming that promoted the Occupy Wall Street movement and focused on information countering US government domestic and foreign policy. RT, in the agency’s assessment, used coverage of the Occupy Movement to promote the notion that change wasn’t possible within the US democratic system and that only “revolutionary action” could affect real change.
The ODNI report mentions Russian TV network RT multiple times, including this anti-fracking segment. The report alleges that this clip was part of a state-sponsored response to “the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market.”
Russian TV network RT was mentioned many times in terms of being part of an official anti-America propaganda machine.
Many of the ideas promoted by RT, such as coverage critical of “fracking” for natural gas in the United States, aligned both with domestic opposition to the US government and with Russia’s own interest in curtailing US development of natural gas and reducing the price of the oil and gas upon which Russia’s economy is highly dependent.
The three US agencies found that the Russian government’s effort to affect the US election was “multifaceted;” it included fake hacktivists (Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks) pushing stolen data through online dumps and exclusive reveals to journalists; Internet “trolls” reinforcing tailored messages and “fake news” links denigrating Clinton and the Democrats while promoting Trump; and propaganda operations that included collaboration with WikiLeaks—including a “partnership” between WikiLeaks and RT.
Putin’s motivations, according to the analysis, included the leak of the Panama Papers—a breach of documents from a Panama-based law firm that set up structures allowing many wealthy people, including members of the Russian government and supporters of Putin, to hide money overseas in secret accounts. “Putin publicly pointed to the Panama Papers disclosure and the Olympic doping scandal as US-directed efforts to defame Russia,” the report notes, which suggests “he sought to use disclosures to discredit the image of the United States and cast it as hypocritical.”