U.S. charges Russian military hackers

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A story for you. May Two thousand seventeen voters in France went to the polls to elect a new French president just like in our election the before then Russian intelligence agencies in the Russian government played hard in the French election that year russian-owned websites pushing outlandish rumours about the centrist candidate Emmanuel macron. Those rumors were then processed into pieces Russian state media outlets. macron's rival was a far right candidate named Marine Le Pen she had inherited from her Holocaust denying Father Control of Francis Post. World War Two Fascist Party. So it was the neo-fascist party running against macron. Lapenne far-right neo-fascist campaign was explicitly bankrolled by a Russian state controlled bank. Marine Le Pen went to Moscow and met with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin during the campaign. This was not subtle. But it was. Too much for Russia to pass up a divisive racist far right fascist candidate injecting chaos into the elections in a major. European. Democracy in twenty seventeen that's like catnip to Russia. Right? They want to undermine democracy everywhere. They will undermine Western countries in general however they can. But Russia's saved its boldest move for the eve of that French. Just two days before the vote. Russian. Hackers part of the same Russian military unit that had disseminated hacked democratic emails during the twenty, sixteen American election the before. They dumped tens of thousands of files, online, nine gigabytes of stolen emails and other information all hacked from Emmanuel Macron's campaign, and that might have become the dominant news story of the final weekend of that campaign. Before French voters went to the polls. It might have actually ended up upending that election if it were not for a quirk of French law, which imposes a media blackout on anything relating to the campaign for full day before voting starts all the way through until polls close on election day. That blackout period in French law precedes this whole scandal with Russia messing with the French election. But it ended up saving the day. The material that was hacked by Russian intelligence got posted online and France just hours before media blackout period began just minutes before the blackout began at midnight that night the macron campaign issued a statement warning that the hackers had inserted forged fake documents into the hack stolen material they pleaded with the media to not report on that junk. And the media didn't. They stuck to the rules. And in the end, Emmanuel macron beat the far-right neo-fascist Marine Le Pen by more than thirty points. And there's a couple of reasons for us be thinking about sort of relearning the story of that. Two thousand seventeen French election right now one is that the intelligence community is raising the alarm that Russian intelligence is executing an operation just like the one they did in France on us right now the supposedly Biden scandal that Rudy Giuliani has been shopping the scandal he. Managed to get printed in the New York Post which president trump has been gleefully promoting ever since including posing with a copy of that paper in the Oval Office that junk that Giuliani has been promoting is being actively investigated by federal investigators as potentially part of a hostile foreign influence operation illegally targeting our election and the intelligence community is investigating this Johnny on the spot. In part because they saw this coming in advance, this is in the New York Times last week quote, The Times reported last January the Ukrainian company were Hunter Biden was once on the Board respond had been hacked by the same Russian Intelligence Unit that hacked the Democratic National Committee in two thousand, sixteen last month US intelligence analysts contracted several people with knowledge of that hack. Asking them for further information because they picked up chatter that stolen burris, my emails would be leaked in the form of an October surprise among their chief concerns was that the burris material would be leaked alongside forged materials and it it's to hurt Biden's candidacy as Russian. Hackers did when they dumped real e mails alongside forgeries ahead of the French elections in two thousand seventeen. So that's what they did to Macron in two, thousand, seventeen they hacked all install all of this stuff from his campaign than they mixed it up with Ford stuffing dumped it right before the election. That's what the US intelligence community said. They believed was going to happen with Barista and sort of October surprise firm Rudy Giuliani. Thank right on time Rudy Giuliani shows up some emails from a mysterious source that are totally unverified and unverified able and only one Rupert Murdoch owned right wing tabloid will air that junk. Put it in their paper. So. That's one reason. The Russian operation in the two thousand, seventeen French election newly relevant to our lives right now, the Russians may be trying that exact same trick all over again except we don't have media blackout rules. The other reason that that two thousand seventeen Russian operation in France is newly relevant. Is that the guys who did it just got indicted by the US Justice Department today? Here they are the Russian military intelligence hackers who carried out that operation to interfere in the French election in two thousand seventeen the Justice Department says in the indictment today that these guys also launched major malware and hacking operations that shut down the power grid in Ukraine that hit the parliament in the nation of Georgia that chemical weapons investigators in the UK and Europe who were looking into the Russian poisoning of former Russian spy, Sergei scruple who was poisoned with a Russian nerve agent on British territory they say, they also orchestrated hacks that hit hospitals in companies. In the United States. They also organize tax that hit the two thousand eighteen winter Olympics quite a list. And? Although. One of the Russian hacker that was indicted today was previously indicted by Robert Muller in two thousand eighteen for his role in the hacking operation against the twenty sixteen election here in the US, today's indictment of these Russian hackers doesn't include any charges related to American election interference this year. That said the election. The American election is two weeks from tomorrow. It's hard to look today's indictment without trying to understand how it relates to our own election and what the Justice Department is trying to signal here. Is that the right way to look at this. Joining us now is Jeremy Bash. He served as chief of staff at the CIA and at the Defense Department under President Obama Jeremy Nice to see. Thanks for making time. It, Rachel. So, this is a lot. Going on the surprise announcement today from the Justice Department about the indictment of these Russian hackers when you look at this with your background in intelligence and your understanding of what Russia has done to target our democracy and others. What do you think is most important here for people to understand. Well I think was most important is that the GRU this Russian military organization that was responsible for the two thousand Sixteen Hacking Dump Operation Against the Democrats that was responsible for the two thousand seventeen election appearance in France as you noted, and is responsible for these militias cyber attacks globally including, against us, hospitals and. They are very active. They're very capable and they are in fact probably behind this this Russian. Intelligence operation at least a looks and appears to be Russian intelligence operation targeting the Biden campaign. Last. Week Andrew Weisman, who is part of the Miller investigation wrote in Law Fair about the decision that was made by bill bar earlier this year this spring to drop criminal charges against Russian companies that had participated in the attack on our election in two thousand sixteen and that didn't actually get a lot of attention when it happened in March I think in part because the country was overwhelmed by what was starting to happen to us in terms of covid why spent makes the case that before may have acted essentially improperly in dismissing those charges essentially signaling to Russia that the. US Criminal Law wouldn't be used against them as a tool if they wanted to interfere in the election this year I'm wondering if this might be a signal in the other direction, if this might be some sort of signal to brushback rush intelligence ahead of what appears to be their ongoing efforts to boost trump in his reelection effort. Hartono, racial. But what we do know is that there are mixed signals being sent by the US government here. Today we have the Justice Department indicting Russian hackers, but you've got the president of the United States welcoming condoning what looks apparently like a Russian intelligence operation targeting the Biden campaign remember Rachel that Rudy Giuliani. In Kiev, with Andrei Dirk Catch Ukrainian lawmaker who has been assessed by US intelligence and announced by our Treasury Department to be a Russian asset for the last decade. Giuliani goes to Kiev meets with Dir cash and he comes back and low these many months later, Giuliani surfaces up with these a very mysterious emails. So every Intelligence Professional Rachel that I've talked to the last twenty four hours says that this walks like a Russian intelligence disinformation campaign this talks like a Russian intelligence to information campaign. This is most likely Russian intelligence is permission campaign against the Biden team.

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