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Russia undoubtedly interfered in US election, spy chief tells Congress

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (centre) testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

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Agencies, Washington :
The top US intelligence official told a congressional panel on Thursday that he believed Russia had undoubtedly interfered in America's 2016 presidential election.
In October last year, the US intelligence community issued a joint statement, alleging that Russia had interfered in the election to help Republican Donald Trump win. And on Thursday, National Intelligence Director James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the intelligence community had now collected more evidence to support its earlier claim. "We stand actually more resolutely on the strength of that statement than we did on the 7th of October," he said.
Mr Clapper said the Russians used "the classical tradecraft" of espionage to achieve their target, which includes hacking, as well as the spreading of traditional propaganda and "fake news'.
Mr. Clapper, Marcel Lettre, the under-secretary of defence for intelligence, and Admiral Michael Rogers, head of the US Cyber Command, testified before the committee on foreign cyber threats, and especially on Russian hacking and interference in the election.
The three officials released a joint statement before their testimony, calling Russia "a full-scope cyber actor that poses a major threat" to America's infrastructure and networks. "In recent years, we have observed the Kremlin assume a more aggressive cyber posture," they said. But when the panel's chairman, Senator John McCain, asked them whether the actions constituted an "act of war," Mr. Clapper said that was "a very heavy policy call" that should not be made by the intelligence community.
Mr. Clapper said intelligence officials will do another briefing for lawmakers next week and will also release to public an unclassified report on the Russian hacking.
In his opening remarks, Senator McCain said that every American "should be alarmed" by this "unprecedented attack on our democracy."
He said that there was "no national security interest more vital to the United States of America than the ability to hold free and fair elections without foreign interference." The hearing was held a day before President-elect Donald Trump receives a briefing by heads of the CIA, FBI and other US intelligence agencies on the investigation into Russia's alleged hacking.
Mr. Trump has criticized the initial intelligence reports about the hacking, saying that he was more inclined to believe WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's contention that Russia did not provide him with hacked Democratic emails.
In new tweets early Thursday, Mr. Trump changed his stance and blamed the "dishonest media" for portraying him as agreeing with Mr. Assange. "The media lies to make it look like I am against 'Intelligence' when in fact I am a big fan!" Mr. Trump wrote.
Mr. Clapper also told the committee that it would be a mistake to believe Mr. Assange who had no credibility.
Last week, President Barack Obama ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country and imposed sanctions on Russia's leading spy agencies, the GRU and FSB, that he said were involved in the hacking.

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