Security Experts:

Senate: WikiLeaks Knowingly Assisted Russian Influence Effort Before 2016 Election

A new report from the Senate intelligence committee on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election in the United States says WikiLeaks knowingly assisted the Kremlin’s influence efforts.

The United States has concluded that Russia conducted an extensive influence campaign leading up to the 2016 election, and a significant part of that campaign involved breaking into the computer systems of the Democratic party and Hilary Clinton’s campaign and leaking information via the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks has been accused of meddling in the election through its actions, but a Senate report published on Tuesday claims that “WikiLeaks actively sought, and played, a key role in the Russian influence campaign and very likely knew it was assisting a Russian intelligence influence effort.”

Some parts of the 966-page report, including in the “Hack and Leak” section, are redacted, but the Senate committee said it had determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton campaign in an effort to harm the Clinton campaign and help the Trump campaign. It was previously reported that Putin allegedly personally ordered the hacking and disinformation campaign aimed at the 2016 election.

WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, is currently being held in Britain. The United States is hoping to have him extradited to face hacking-related charges.

Earlier this year, Assange’s lawyer told a court that Trump had offered to pardon him if he accepted to say that Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks, a claim that the White House has denied.

SecurityWeek has reached out to WikiLeaks for comment.

Republican senator Marco Rubio, chairman of the committee that released the report, stated that while the investigation did find irrefutable evidence of Russian meddling, it “found absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election.”

However, the report noted, “While the GRU and WikiLeaks were releasing hacked documents, the Trump Campaign sought to maximize the impact of those leaks to aid Trump’s electoral prospects. Staff on the Trump Campaign sought advance notice about WikiLeaks releases, created messaging strategies to promote and share the materials in anticipation of and following their release, and encouraged further leaks.”

It added, “The Trump Campaign publicly undermined the attribution of the hack-and-leak campaign to Russia and was indifferent to whether it and WikiLeaks were furthering a Russian election interference effort.”

The report also noted that Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had been in communication with several individuals tied to Russia, including a Russian intelligence officer who may have been connected to the hack and leak operation targeting the 2016 election. Manafort at one point pushed the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind the cyberattack on the DNC.

Related: US Offers $10 Million Reward Against Election Interference

Related: 2016 Again? Russia Back to Stirring Chaos in U.S. Election

Related: Russia Effort in 2016 US Election Was 'Vast,' 'Professional'

view counter
Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.