NEWSWATCH: House Intelligence Committee Report on Russia Investigation; Excerpt: Introduction and Overview

Kremlin and St. Basil's at Night

The U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has issued a redacted version of a March 22, 2018, report on its investigation of Russia’s activities surrounding the 2016 U.S. election.  PDF versions are available at intelligence.house.gov/UploadedFiles/HPSCI_-_Declassified_Committee_Report_Redacted_FINAL_Redacted.pdf and docs.house.gov/meetings/IG/IG00/20180322/108023/HRPT-115-1.pdf.

U.S. Capitol file photoThe Committee found no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, yet was critical of both major presidential campaigns:

“While the Committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns. …”



An excerpt follows:

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Report on Russian Active Measures
March 22, 2018

* * *

Introduction and Overview

(U) Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was nothing novel for the Kremlin. The Kremlin aspires to sow chaos and discord and advance its agenda in targeted nations, particularly in Europe and former Soviet republics such as the Baltics and Ukraine. To do this, Russia effectively combines decades of experience in propaganda and psychological warfare techniques with its vast media apparatus, a strata of well-educated and proficient technicians, and a robust intelligence and security corps.

(U} In the United States, Russian cyberattacks related to the 2016 elections starkly highlighted technical vulnerabilities in U.S. digital infrastructure and bureaucratic shortcomings that were exploited by the Kremlin. Russia’s active measures campaign achieved its primary goal of inciting division and discord among Americans. For more than a year, U.S. politics have been consumed by bitter recriminations, charges, and counter-charges about the attacks. The reliability of the democratic vote-the bedrock of the U.S. republic-was widely and repeatedly questioned.

(U) At the time of the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle, the Committee was already concerned with Russian malfeasance and aggression in levels that had not been seen since the Cold War. In fact, the IAA for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 included multiple provisions to improve the United States’ ability to counter Russian aggression. However, the Kremlin’s malicious activities during the 2016 U.S. presidential election triggered the Committee to announce a specific inquiry into Russia’s campaign (see Appendix B). The bipartisan parameters focused the investigation and this report-this Committee examined:

(1) Russian cyber activity and other active measures that were directed against the United States and its allies;

(2) whether the Russian active measures include links between Russia and individuals associated with presidential campaigns;

(3) the U.S. government response to these Russian active measures and what we need to do to protect ourselves and our allies in the future; and

(4) what possible leaks of classified information took place related to the Intelligence Community’s assessment of these matters.1 The Committee interviewed 73 witnesses, conducted 9 hearings and briefings, reviewed approximately 307,900 documents, and issued 20 subpoenas. This allowed the Committee to find answers crucial for identifying and addressing institutional weaknesses to assist the United States with identifying and
responding to inevitable hostile acts in the future.



(U) While the 2016 U.S. presidential election helped focus American attention on Russian cyber and information operations, the Russian government has conducted active measure campaigns in Europe for years. Believing it is engaged in an information war with the West, Russia’s influence activities employ an array of tactics-usually tailored to the target country’s population and environment-in an effort to accomplish the Kremlin’s goals. These goals generally include influencing an opponent’s leadership and population, advancing a narrative, or inducing a behavior change. The factors that make these campaigns successful also make them hard to counter. However, governments, non-governmental organizations, and media organizations in Europe have begun taking actions to address and mitigate the threat that Russian influence campaigns pose.

(U) The Russian active measures campaign against the United States was multifaceted. It leveraged cyberattacks, covert platforms, social media, third-party intermediaries, and state-run media. Hacked material was disseminated through this myriad network of actors with the objective of undermining the effectiveness of the future administration. This dissemination worked in conjunction with derisive messages posted on social media to undermine confidence in the election and sow fear and division in American society.

(U) The U.S. government’s subsequent response to the Russian active measures campaign during the 2016 election was slow [REDACTED] As that picture evolved, the FBl’s notification to victims and oversight committees was inconsistent in timeliness and quality, which contributed to the victims’ failure to both recognize the threat and defend their systems. State and local governments were slow to grasp the seriousness of the threat and when notified of breaches continued to resist any action that implied federal direction or control. Some states opted not to cooperate with important defensive measures offered by the DHS. While no tabulation systems, or systems that count votes, were impacted, the overall security posture of the U.S. federal, state, and local governments was demonstrated to be inadequate and vulnerable.

(U) The Committee’s investigation also reviewed the opening, in summer 2016, of a FBI enterprise counterintelligence investigation into [REDACTED] Trump campaign associates:
[REDACTED] Carter Page [REDACTED] Because of “the sensitivity of the matter,” the FBI did not notify congressional leadership about this investigation during the FBl’s regular counterintelligence briefings.

Three of [REDACTED] original subjects of the FBI investigation have been charged with crimes and the Committee’s review of these cases covers the period prior to the appointment of Special Counsel in May 2017.

(U) While the Committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns. For example, the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer who falsely purported to have damaging information on the Clinton campaign demonstrated poor judgement. The Committee also found the Trump campaign’s periodic praise for and communications with Wikileaks – a hostile foreign organization-to be highly objectionable and inconsistent with U.S. national security interests. The Committee also found that the Clinton campaign and the DNC, using a series of cutouts and intermediaries to obscure their roles, paid for opposition research on Trump obtained from Russian sources, including a litany of claims by high-ranking current and former Russian government officials. Some of this opposition research was used to produce sixteen memos, which comprise what has become known as the Steele dossier.

(U) The effectiveness and relatively low cost of information operations, such as the dissemination of propaganda, make it an attractive tool for foreign adversaries. Unless the cost-benefit equation of such operations changes significantly, the Putin regime and other hostile governments will continue to pursue these attacks against the United States and its allies. Based on the investigation, the Committee recommends several solutions to help safeguard U.S. and allies’ political processes from nefarious actors, such as the Russians. …