Special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers for allegedly hacking into Democratic organizations and trying to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
The defendants are accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee, the campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to a press release. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the 11-count indictment Friday.
The indictment also says the defendants conspired to steal voter data by hacking into the computers of state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and U.S. companies that supplied election technology. In one hack of a state board of elections website, the defendants allegedly stole information for about 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial Social Security numbers, birth dates and driver’s license numbers.
The defendants were officers with a Russian military intelligence agency called the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, known as the GRU. The GRU had multiple units that staged releases of documents stolen through computer hacking.
The defendants released tens of thousands of the stolen emails and documents using fictitious online personas, including “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0,” according to the indictment.
Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, has previously acknowledged he communicated with a Twitter persona known as Guccifer 2.0, but has said the interactions were limited and entirely benign.
There is no allegation in the indictment that any Americans were knowing participants in the alleged conspiracy or knew they were communicating with Russian intelligence officers, the release points out. Nor is there any allegation that the hacking altered the vote count or changed the outcome of the election.
According to the indictment, the Guccifer persona communicated with an unnamed person who was in regular contact with senior members of Trump’s presidential campaign and asked if the person found anything interesting in posted stolen documents. Two days later, Guccifer asked the person what he or she thought about hacked information on the Democrats’ turnout model for the campaign. The person responded, “Pretty standard.”
The indictment says the Guccifer persona received a request for stolen documents from an unnamed congressional candidate and sent that individual stolen documents about the candidate’s opponent.
The indictment says the defendants also transferred stolen documents to a state lobbyist, two reporters and a group referred to as “Organization 1.” WikiLeaks posted many hacked Democratic documents.
The hacking started in at least March 2016 and the group began to release documents some three months later, the indictment says. Some of the defendants used “spearphishing” to steal victims’ passwords and gain access to their computers. The conspirators searched one hacked DCCC computer for terms that included “hillary,” “cruz” and “trump,” and also copied select folders, including one titled “Benghazi Investigations,” the indictment says.
The defendants allegedly used bitcoin and other cryptocurrency to hide the source of payments for their computer networks.
The defendants are accused of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to launder money.
“Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious, and there will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide and conquer us,” Rosenstein said in the release. “So long as we are united in our commitment to the shared values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed.”