U.S. intelligence agencies are convinced that Russian hackers who may be operating under orders from Vladimir Putin are preparing to release thousands of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server.
A U.S. intelligence official told Inside the Ring that the indications of the email release are being closely watched, although the veracity of at least two postings on the matter could not be confirmed as authoritative.
A State Department official has said Russia is one of at least three foreign governments likely to have obtained the full content of the former secretary of state’s server through covert hacking operations. The other two are China and Israel.
Russian intelligence agencies are suspected of cyberintrusions that obtained sensitive political information contained in Democratic National Committee networks. Last week, reports surfaced that computer networks of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation were also compromised, also by Russian hackers.
Russian intelligence is considered to be the most capable nation-state cyberespionage and cyberwarfare power, and its intelligence-gathering operations in the U.S. are said to be going at Cold War levels.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer schooled in the black arts of covert operations, would be the top authority to order the release of the Clinton emails, if in fact Moscow has obtained the tens of thousands of private emails.
A possible Russian motive for making public all the emails would be to undermine any Justice Department influence in the ongoing FBI investigation of the private email server, an investigation said by FBI sources to have expanded into whether the server was used improperly to boost the fortunes of the Clinton Foundation.
Mr. Putin may being calculating that the release of some of the highly classified information within the emails could be used against Mrs. Clinton to influence the U.S. presidential election. Alternatively, Mr. Putin could use his access to the emails for blackmail should Mrs. Clinton win the election in November.
This is a story that sounds good but may be an effort by anti-Hillary intel officials to embarrass her. Except Bill Gertz is one of the top national security journalists in the country with impeccable sources. He’s been right far more often than he’s been wrong.
If that’s the case, pop some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show. If Russian cyber criminals are involved and Putin is directing them, they will probably wait to release the emails until they can inflict the maximum amount of damage on Clinton, either just prior to or right after the Democratic convention.
And I’m not convinced Putin really wants Trump as president. Foreign leaders crave predictability and the mercurial Mr. Trump is anything but. His goal in leaking the emails then would be to weaken a Clinton presidency with our allies.
If the emails are released and contain classified information, they may as well unseal the indictment. Allowing classified information to be exposed due to negligently creating a private, unsecured email server is the textbook definition of mishandling classified info.
It’s going to be a long, hot summer for Hillary Clinton.