Cybersecurity experts think it's likely the National Security Agency has evidence of Russian involvement in the Democratic National Committee email hack — and also good reason to keep it secret.
Intelligence agencies have already told the White House they have "high confidence" the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the DNC, The New York Times
And President Barack Obama acknowledged to "NBC Nightly News"
on Tuesday "Russians hack our systems — not just government systems, but private systems," adding they also "on a regular basis, try to influence elections in Europe."
NSA secrets leaker Edward Snowden took to Twitter to suggest the evidence of such an attack "certainly exists" at the spy agency but has been kept under wraps out of fear of divulging too much information about its surveillance techniques and capabilities.
"It is actually very reasonable to conclude that the NSA does know the answer to this question without any real ambiguity," Alex McGeorge, head of threat intelligence at the Miami-based cybersecurity firm Immunity Inc., tells Business Insider
According to McGeorge, the NSA data analysis program XKeyscore, which Snowden revealed in 2013, is capable of intercepting communications at a variety of points and correlating sources, and would probably be capable of determining the attacker.
"It's not easy, but that's part of why they're so good at their job," he tells Business Insider.
Greg Martin — who founded the cybersecurity startup Jask and is a former adviser to the FBI, Secret Service, and NASA — tells Business Insider he also agrees U.S. intelligence agencies have technical capabilities they aren't about to share with the public.
"More than likely, it is able to trace back the DNC breach to the true actor behind it," he tells Business Insider.
But McGeorge tells the outlet it would be a mistake to go public with the information.
According to McGeorge, the public knows that programs like XKeyscore exist and what types of data they collect, but not precisely how they work – and the NS wouldn't be able to reveal evidence of Russian involvement without also disclosing the specifics of its surveillance capabilities.
"The NSA could say, 'Yes we know the Russians did it.' Would that be enough to satisfy the public? Or would they have to somehow say how they made that determination?" McGeorge said.
"That is the key point that would give the Russians more than we perhaps want."
But Martin tells Business Insider interfering in a U.S. presidential election "crossed the line" and could embolden the Russians in the future.
"At a minimum, the U.S. government should have 'named and shamed' Russia and issued a strong diplomatic rebuke," Martin said. "By not doing so, we're setting a dangerous precedent for both us and our allies."
According to The Daily Beast,
a well-known Soviet tactic against Western democracies is known as "active measures."
A retired KGB general defines the tactic as one "to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people," the Daily Beast reports.
Russia's current spy apparatus is almost entirely run by former agents of the KGB
, the Daily Caller notes, and Russian President Vladimir Putin himself was a KGB agent for years, before embarking on a life in politics.
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