United States intelligence agencies believe that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in part because he believed the doping scandal that led to hundreds of Russian athletes missing the 2016 Summer Olympics was an American operation, according to a newly declassified intelligence report.
In the run-up to the American presidential election, the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta were prominently hacked, and their emails were given to and published by Wikileaks. For months, various leaks to the news media have made it clear that U.S. intelligence agencies generally believe that these hacks were ordered by the Russian government in an attempt to influence the election and elect Donald Trump, though this has been far from proven.
After President-elect Trump attended an intelligence briefing today on Russian hacking, the declassified report, which reflects the assessments of the CIA, FBI, and NSA, was released. It notes that Putin “publicly pointed to the Panama Papers disclosure and the Olympic doping scandal as US-directed efforts to defame Russia, suggesting he sought to use disclosures to discredit the image of the United States and cast it as hypocritical.”
In Nov. 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency released a report into Russian state-sponsored doping, concluding that hundreds of athletes were taking banned substances with the help of the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB. Later, whistleblowers detailed how Russian sports officials swapped out tainted urine samples every night during the Sochi Olympics. Ultimately, no Russian track and field athletes were allowed to compete in the Rio Olympics, while some athletes from other sports were banned as well. Russian officials finally admitted to the doping scheme last month.
The declassified intelligence report says that the election-related hacks “reflect a pattern of Russian intelligence using hacked information in targeted influence efforts against targets such as Olympic athletes and other foreign governments.” In September, Fancy Bear—a hacking group said to be connected to Russian military intelligence—released documents hacked from WADA, which showed American athletes Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Simone Biles, and Elena Delle Donne had received therapeutic use exemptions to take a variety of drugs that are otherwise banned.
Russia, going back to the days of the USSR, has always attempted to project might to the world through sports, even—or especially—if that involved massive doping schemes. It isn’t particularly hard to believe that the country’s intelligence services would react strongly to the discrediting of their athletic achievements, and order a retaliatory hacking operation.
The full report can be read here.