Report: U.S. Probing Suspicions of Russian Covert Operation to Subvert Election

The Washington Post, which broke the story, also quoted an intelligence official who acknowledged that there was no proof of such activity on Russia's part.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. counterpart Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders Summit in Hangzhou on September 5, 2016.
Alexei Druzhinin/AFP

American intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating what they suspect is a major Russian covert operation in the United States to encourage public distrust in the presidential election and in American political institutions, the Washington Post reported Monday, citing intelligence and Congressional sources.

"The aim is to understand the scope and intent of the Russian campaign, which incorporates cyber-tools to hack systems used in the political process, enhancing Russia’s ability to spread disinformation," the newspaper stated, adding that the U.S. investigation of the suspected Russian effort is being headed by James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence. But the Post also cited comments by one unidentified senior intelligence official as saying that the intelligence community has no "definitive proof" of Russian tampering with the U.S. electoral process.

Are Putin and Wikileaks Working for Trump?

According to the Post, officials believe that the Russian operation isn't aimed at swaying public opinion in favor of one candidate, but to "cause chaos" and provide propaganda fodder to undermine U.S. policy abroad.

Last month, the Post noted, the FBI warned state election officials to take special care to watch out for breaches of their election systems, and to up security of voter registration, voter rolls and election-related website, among other things.

For his part, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has urged President Barack Obama to publicly name Russia as responsible for hacking at the Democratic National Committee earlier this year, despite Russia's denial that it has carried out hacking operations in the United States. 

The United States has not publicly accused Russia of being behind the hack of Democratic Party computers. Cyber security experts and U.S. officials, however, said they believed Russia engineered the release of the emails to influence the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.