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US intel heads slam Kremlin in alleged Russian hacking during US election

The heads of the US intelligence community have reiterated they have strong evidence Russia mounted a successful bid to disrupt the American election. President-elect Donald Trump has refused to accept their conclusions.

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Russia meddled in US election, says spy chief

The CIA said on Thursday it had identified Russian officials who fed material to WikiLeaks which had been hacked from the Democratic National Committee and leading Democrats.

The officials had been directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin through third parties, the agency said. 

In a joint statement to a hearing on foreign cyber-threats to the US, outgoing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (above), National Security Agency chief Michael Rogers and Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, wrote that "only Russia's senior-most officials" could have authorized the operation.

"The Russians have a long history of interfering in elections, theirs and other people's," Clapper told the Senate armed services committee.

Litauen Vilnius Karikatur Kuss Putin Trump mit Marihuana (Getty Images/S. Gallup)

A mural of US President-elect Donald Trump (R) blowing marijuana smoke into the mouth of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Vilnius, Lithuania.

"We have never encountered such a direct campaign to interfere with the election process as we have seen in this case [ … ]. This was a multifaceted campaign. So the hacking was only one part of it, and it also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news."

"Russia has clearly assumed an even more aggressive cyber posture by increasing cyber espionage operations, leaking data stolen from these operations and targeting critical infrastructure systems," he went on.

President Barack Obama in December ordered the intelligence community to produce a report on cyberattacks and possible Russian interference in the election.

An unclassified version of the report - stripped of sensitive details - will be released to the public early next week.

New evidence?

Thursday's hearing did not offer any new evidence to back the allegations. When asked by senators to provide more proof, Clapper said he could not do so in public, saying it risked damaging the intelligence community's sources and operations.

Obama was briefed on the report on Thursday and his successor, Donald Trump, is expected to receive the same information on Friday.

The briefing for the president-elect comes amid worries he has already soured relations with key parts of the national security establishment. 

USA Cia-Direktor John Brennan (Getty Images/W. McNamee)

CIA Director John Brennan

Not having any of it

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the findings and has pledged a rapprochement with President Vladimir Putin's Russia after taking office on January 20.

Trump on Wednesday cited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to suggest that anyone, "even a 14-year-old child," could have been behind the hacking.

"The media lies to make it look like I am against 'Intelligence' when in fact I am a big fan!" Trump said on Twitter.

"The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement [sic] with Julian Assange - wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the people...to make up their own minds as to the truth."

jbh/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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