A report from the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released Friday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering the operation in which computer hackers stole Democratic Party files and fed them to WikiLeaks.
US intelligence agencies said Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered a campaign of hacking and media manipulation to upend the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
"This is a press release. It's clearly designed for political effect," Assange said in an online press conference.
"No evidence of anything is presented anywhere in the report."
The Australian former computer hacker has been inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London since June 2012 in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations.
Assange said its leaked material did not come from the Russian government, but declined to say where it did come from.
"Even if you accept that Russian intelligence services hacked Democratic Party institutions in the United States, it is normal for intelligence services to hack each other's political parties."
"Even if you accepted that… you have to ask the question: what was the intent of those Russian hacks and do they connect to our publication or is it simply incidental?
"We haven't said whether we know or whether we don't know our sources… Our sources in the US election matter are not a state party."
Hackers took thousands of emails and documents from the computers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, which were published by WikiLeaks in the weeks ahead of the November 8 presidential election.
The releases embarrassed the party and harmed the losing candidate Clinton's White House bid.
"WikiLeaks sources in relation to John Podesta emails and the DNC leak are not members of any government, they are not state parties, they do not come from the Russian government," said Assange.
The Kremlin on Monday branded the US intelligence report as baseless and amateurish, saying Moscow was growing tired of denying claims that the Russian government meddled in the US election.
|© Provided by AFP WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, pictured in 2016, said its leaked material on the US Democratic Party did not come from the Russian government, but declined to say where it did come from|
Assange blasts 'embarrassing' US intel report, insists Russia not his source
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange fired back Monday at the U.S. intelligence community for its report stating the anti-secrecy website was used by the Russian government to distribute hacked information from Democratic figures during the run-up to the presidential election.
Assange, speaking during an audio-only Periscope Q&A session, said the source of his information was not a member “of any government” or “state parties” and did not “come from the Russian government.” The WikiLeaks editor-in-chief blasted Friday’s declassified intelligence report on “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” as being inadequate and misleading.
“It was not an intelligence report,” Assange said. “It does not have the structure of an intelligence report. It does not have the structure of a Presidential Daily Brief. It was frankly quite embarrassing.”
He added: “It was clearly designed for political effect.”
Asked Monday whether it's possible that WikiLeaks' source was a go-between affiliated with the Russian government, Assange said he didn't want to "play twenty questions with our sources."
The intelligence report, prepared at the direction of President Obama, laid the blame for the breach of top Democratic officials’ emails directly at the feet of the Russians, whom the report said launched cyber operations as part of a Vladimir Putin-ordered “influence campaign.”
“We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence … relayed material to WikiLeaks,” the report said, adding this included material from the DNC and senior Democratic officials.
WikiLeaks famously published emails from top DNC officials before the 2016 Democratic convention, and later published thousands of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta -- but Assange has steadfastly insisted, including in a recent interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, that Moscow was not the source.
Asked Monday if he believed the intelligence community’s finding had been “fabricated,” Assange stopped just short, saying: “Most of this so-called intelligence report is not even fabricated. That is, it does not even make assertions for the most part to rise to the level of fabrications … it uses speculative terms and admits its own speculation.”
The report itself, perhaps in anticipation of such challenges, noted that the declassified version “does not include the full supporting information on key elements of the influence campaign.”
But Assange later indicated he didn’t think it mattered who supplied the information to his group.
“Even if you believed that hackers of some kind illicitly obtained the Podesta emails and the DNC emails we published … what are we talking about in terms of impact?” Assange said. “...What was discussed are the words of Hillary Clinton, John Podesta and her team revealing unethical practices, corruption, hypocrisy, etcetera.”
He asked: “Should the American people have been denied that true information?”
During the chat, which took place inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Assange has been holed up to avoid deportation on a rape charge he denies since June 2012, the WikiLeaks boss leveled a new accusation at the Obama administration.
“Past administrations of both Republican and Democrat flavors have engaged in mass destruction of records as they’ve left office. We are told that destruction of records is occurring now in different parts of the Obama administration,” Assange said.
He urged anyone within those agencies to “get hold of that history and protect it; because that’s something that belongs to humanity and does not belong to a political party.”
Assange’s assertion of mass document destruction may be the reason for a Tuesday tweet from WikiLeaks offering $20,000 as a “reward for information leading to the arrest or exposure of any Obama admin agent destroying significant records.”
He also challenged the claim that WikiLeaks was in league with President-elect Donald Trump and wanted him to win the election.
“We knew we were creating substantial conflict between us and the person we expected to be the next president,” said Assange, noting he believed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would be the likely victor based on pre-election polling. “So we understood that we were putting ourselves in a more persecuted condition by relentlessly exposing this material, increasing the risk for us. Not decreasing at all.”
Trump, meanwhile, has not outright challenged the findings in Friday's report despite having voiced skepticism before about Russia's involvement.
Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, told "Fox News Sunday" he thinks the president-elect “accepts the findings” and is “not denying entities in Russia are behind these particular hackings.”
WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange: US hacking report is 'embarrassing'
Julian Assange has launched a scathing attack on the quality of the US intelligence report that says his organization was involved in hacking the presidential election.
Speaking at a news conference broadcast on Periscope Monday, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks said the report was "embarrassing to the reputation of the US intelligence services."
A report from US intelligence officials Friday assessed "with high confidence" the GRU Russian intelligence agency "used the Guccifer 2.0 persona, DCLeaks.com, and WikiLeaks to release US victim data obtained in cyberoperations publicly."
The intelligence community also assessed "with high confidence" that the GRU provided WikiLeaks with the material it obtained from hacking the Democratic National Committee and top Democratic officials.
Assange hit back by labeling the report a "press release" and criticized the Obama administration for politicizing the US intelligence services.
"Most of this so-called intelligence report is not even fabricated," he said, suggesting there wasn't enough in it to be made up.
"It does not even make assertions for the most part... it uses speculative terms... it engages us in sneaky conflations... How good a report is it as an intelligence report from 1 to 10? The evidentiary weight is literally zero. There is no evidence of any kind supplied," Assange said.
Assange spoke from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he's been holed up for more than four years to avoid facing sexual assault charges in Sweden and a potential extradition to the United States.
He gave little away when asked by CNN whether WikiLeaks acted as a go-between as suggested by the report.
"We can't play 20 questions to our sources. Each piece of information you disclose about the source narrows the scope of any investigation... if our sources were, for example, a state, we would have a lot less concern in attempting to protect them."
The report was the first official, full and public accounting by the US intelligence community of its assessment of Russian cyberhacking activities during the 2016 presidential campaign and election, and the motivations behind that hacking.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists in a conference call that the charges against Russia "were not backed by anything" and were "made on a very amateur, emotional level."
"What we see is ... that all of this looks like is a full-scale witch hunt."