World Needs to Be Warned on Russian Intervention in U.S. Election, CIA Director Says
On eve of Trump briefing, John Brennan says potential interference in Europe ‘very serious concern’
Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan said his agency and the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama want to publicize Russian interference in the recent U.S. elections as a warning to other countries, particularly in Europe.
The potential of Russian interference across Europe and especially in upcoming elections in Germany, a U.S. ally and partner in implementing sanctions against Russia, “is a very serious concern,” said Mr. Brennan at an event hosted by the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. “It is very important for the United States to understand exactly what happened here, so we can not only safeguard our system but we can also make sure that we inform others.”
“By exposing this publicly, [it] makes Mr. Putin in the future more reluctant to go down this path, because their activities are being uncovered,” he added.
The Russian government, he said, in previous elections in Europe, sought to promote corrupt officials who would help advance their interest or spread propaganda and falsehoods during elections within those countries.
Mr. Brennan and other intelligence officials will brief president-elect Donald Trump on Friday on their evidence that Russia hacked American institutions and individuals to steer the outcome of the U.S. election. Mr. Trump has repeatedly voiced skepticism of these claims and said that intelligence agencies have no proof behind their allegations.
The CIA director, however, stressed the agency’s confidence in their conclusions, saying that the “intensity, the scope and the scale” of Russian interference in the 2016 elections was different and more wide-ranging than their interference in previous elections, both in other countries and the U.S.
The hacks “speak to the vulnerabilities that exist right now in terms of the digital domain,” he said. “It is not just electoral processes that are subject to this type of exploitation, it is also our electric grids, our transportation systems and others.”
Despite Mr. Trump’s ambivalent and sometimes hostile relationship with the intelligence community, Mr. Brennan expressed confidence that the president-elect will understand the work of his agency and others tasked with collecting intelligence.
Mr. Trump “I think is unfamiliar with the intelligence profession and intelligence capabilities,” said Mr. Brennan, who has worked at the CIA over five previous presidential transitions. “This is the time for CIA officers really to strut their stuff, to be able to demonstrate just how good we are, how capable we are, the expertise we have, and what intelligence brings to the president of the United States.”
Analysts have said that the president-elect’s penchant to send out fiery tweets at all hours—unbeknown even to his communication advisers—could complicate the work of those in the intelligence community, diplomats and others who handle sensitive material. Mr. Brennan said he hopes Mr. Trump would take the issue of national security seriously when in office.
“When the president of the United States says something, it can have ramifications [and] reverberations worldwide,” he said. “I am anticipating that the next administration will understand just how important it is that when they… make a statement, that they need to think through what the second and third order of consequences are of it.”