President Obama asked intelligence officials to perform a “full review” of election-related hacking this week, and plans will share a report of its findings with lawmakers before he leaves office on January 20, 2017.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Friday that the investigation will reach all the way back to 2008, and will examine patterns of “malicious cyber-activity timed to election cycles.” He emphasized that the White House is not questioning the results of the November election.
Asked whether a sweeping investigation could be completed in the time left in Obama’s final term—just six weeks—Schultz replied that intelligence agencies will work quickly, because the preparing the report is “a major priority for the president of the United States.”
Last week, every Democrat (and a Democrat-aligned Independent) on the Senate Intelligence Committee called on the White House to declassify and release more information about Russia’s involvement in the U.S. elections. Schultz said the president ordered the review independent of requests from Congress.
Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who led the request, said Friday that the announcement was welcome. “Declassifying and releasing information about the Russian government and the U.S. election, and doing so quickly, must be a priority,” he said in a statement.
Top Senate Republicans are also planning to launch a probe into election-related cyberattacks, but with a special focus on Russian influence, The Washington Post reported this week.
In October, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security said publicly that the Intelligence Community was “confident” that the Russian government directed hacking attempts on political organizations in the U.S.—a likely reference to data breaches at the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Lisa Monaco, the president’s advisor for homeland security, announced the review at a Christian Science Monitor event Friday morning.
She would not say, however, whether the administration plans to release the findings of its review to the public. “That’s going to be first and foremost a determination that’s made by the intelligence community,” Monaco told reporters, according to Politico. “We want to do so very attentive to not disclosing sources and methods that may impede our ability to identify and attribute malicious actors in the future.”
President-elect Donald Trump has denied that Russia was involved in any election-related hacking. This week, he told Time that he thinks the Intelligence Community’s announcement about Russia’s role in the election was politically driven, despite agents’ traditional obligation of political neutrality.
Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, praised the review in a statement, and called for it to be completed quickly:
Given President-elect Trump’s disturbing refusal to listen to our intelligence community and accept that the hacking was orchestrated by the Kremlin, there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month.