President Barack Obama has ordered intelligence officials to conduct a broad review of election-season cyber-attacks, including the email hacks that rattled the presidential campaign and raised fresh concerns about Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections, the White House said Friday.
The review, led by intelligence agencies, will be a “deep dive” into a possible pattern of increased “malicious cyber activity” timed to the campaign season, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. The review will look at the tactics, targets, key actors and the U.S. government’s response to the recent email hacks, as well as incidents reported in past elections, he said.
The president ordered up the report earlier this week and asked that it be completed before he leaves office next month, Schultz said.
“The president wanted this done under his watch because he takes it very seriously,” he said. “We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our elections.”
U.S. intelligence officials accused Russia of hacking into Democratic officials’ email accounts in an attempt to interfere with the presidential campaign. In the months leading up to the election, email accounts of Democratic Party officials and a Hillary Clinton campaign aide were breached, emails leaked to Wikileaks and embarrassing and private emails posted online. Many Democrats believe the hackings benefited Republican Donald Trump’s bid. During the campaign, Trump downplayed the possibility that Russia was involved.
Schultz said the president sought the probe as a way of improving U.S. defense against cyber-attacks and was not intending to question the legitimacy of Trump’s victory.
“This is not an effort to challenge the outcome of the election,” Schultz said.
Democratic lawmakers on the Senate intelligence committee have been pushing Obama to declassify more information about Russia’s role. Rep. Adam Schiff, senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said he welcomed Obama’s call for a review.
“Given President-elect Trump’s disturbing refusal to listen to our intelligence community and accept that the hacking was orchestrated by the Kremlin, there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month,” Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement. If the administration doesn’t respond “forcefully” to such actions, “we can expect to see a lot more of this in the near future,” he said.
The White House said lawmakers and relevant state officials will be briefed on the report.