FBI Director Comey Says Russian Hackers Gained ‘Limited’ Access to Old RNC Computer Systems


The director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, told lawmakers at a Senate hearing on Tuesday that Russian hackers had penetrated the Republican National Committee’s computer records, but he called it a “limited penetration of old R.N.C.” computer systems that were “no longer in use.”

Mr. Comey’s statement was significant because the Republican National Committee has said it did not lose data to the Russians because of its strong cybersecurity. President-elect Donald J. Trump has repeated that assertion, and has also said weaknesses in Democratic National Committee systems had allowed them to be hacked.

While Mr. Comey did not go into detail, he appeared to be referring to a Russian-led attack on a contractor in Tennessee used by the Republican committee.

Federal investigators, speaking on background, have said that a single email server used by that contractor had been penetrated. But it was going out of service, and contained outdated material that the Russians probably found of little value. People with direct knowledge of the server’s contents said it had been used by Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain.

A congressional aide in Senator Graham’s office said the hacking of the email server in question occurred in June 2016. The Graham campaign was using the server to send news clips and campaign releases, the aide said.

In an unclassified report released last Friday, the intelligence community reported that the Russians had attacked “Republican-affiliated” organizations, but that they had chosen not to make any of that data public. Their report made no specific reference to the Republican National Committee.

Pressed on the issue by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, Mr. Comey said Tuesday that there was “evidence of hacking directed at the state level” and at the R.N.C., “but that it was old stuff.” He said there was no evidence “that the current R.N.C.” or the Trump campaign had been hacked.

Senior intelligence and law enforcement officials testified on Tuesday for the first time since the release of the declassified report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. They appeared before the Senate committee four days after the findings were described to Mr. Trump.

The panel, convened by the Senate Intelligence Committee, included James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency and of the military’s Cyber Command. John O. Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Mr. Comey also testified.

Mr. Clapper and Admiral Rogers also appeared last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where Mr. Clapper suggested to lawmakers that Mr. Trump’s public skepticism about intelligence conclusions had undermined the community’s work.

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SOURCE: NY Times, David E. Sanger and Matt Flegenheimer