An exhaustive report finds federal law enforcement had insufficient tools to halt threats posed by Russia against the upcoming U.S. midterm elections.
There were communications that should have been investigated but weren’t, and basic requirements such as connecting callers to phone numbers were not followed, according to a newly released Office of Inspector General report from the Central Intelligence Agency.
An unclassified version of the report has been provided to congressional lawmakers, and it outlines information on Russian and Western attempts to disrupt elections conducted in the United States and other countries, including Syria, Egypt, and Germany.
There was a failure to investigate links between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, according to the report.
Trump, who faced accusations of collusion with the Kremlin, repeatedly denied allegations of collusion but fired the man leading an investigation into the issue, FBI Director James Comey, earlier this year.
Citing classified information, the report says a senior Russian military intelligence officer sent coded messages about election interference efforts in July 2016. The messages explicitly communicated to Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, that it was crucial to get as much information as possible on how “Russia’s target audience” would act and what actions they would take.
Days later, a senior U.S. intelligence official alerted Trump that the Russians had stolen documents that they intended to leak. Trump didn’t respond.
The Russians also sent messages to a senior Trump adviser saying they intended to run a bogus news story related to the demonstrations in response to Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. Trump, however, knew about the news story and did not mention it.
Trump’s administration has worked to undermine international cooperation and international processes, and work against the interests of the United States and international norms, the report states.
In addition to the elections, Russian meddling also included spreading false news stories to weaken confidence in the health of the United States, meddlesome social media messaging, a public relations campaign to damage faith in the FBI, and efforts to influence judges.
The report says it takes a year to get information about overseas hacking and sabotage attempts “once the bad actors decide to proceed.”
Citing a report from a private security firm, the report states Russian attempts to influence U.S. elections have been spread across platforms including Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter, Skype, and Outlook.
Facebook has been hit with three major data breaches in as many years.
The report reveals that, in 2016, the FBI engaged the threat intelligence organization Analysis Group 3 to help identify the dangers of Russian activities. AIG 3 quickly identified “more than 70 Russian pages, accounts, and other vehicles that were active on Facebook” in July 2016.
The agency advised the FBI to provide a “simple tool” so it could show officials where they were, what they were doing, and who they were targeting. The FBI did not provide that tool to AIG 3 or any other federal agency.
More than 240 organizations operated fake sites between March and June 2016, including four fake accounts Facebook identified under fake names for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“These efforts are likely to continue in the 2018 midterm elections,” the report says.