Details of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s wrongdoing are trickling out slowly. Secrecy, bias, and obstruction of justice appear to make up the climate shaped by former FBI Director James Comey. New details further evidence that fact.
According to Associated Press, the FBI did not warn US targets when Russian hackers were attempting to breach personal Gmail accounts. The FBI failed to do so, even though they held evidence for a year showing that the targets would likely get hacked by the Kremlin. The failure took place under the leadership of James Comey.
The AP identified over 500 American citizens or groups from the data, with 80 ultimately agreeing to interviews. Only two cases had prior warning from the FBI of potential Russian hacking. Most targets were retired government officials, although at least a quarter of the targets held government positions or security clearances at the time.
The FBI held evidence that such a hacking attack was imminent — a fact confirmed by three individuals close to the matter, including current and former government officials. The evidence included details of Russian hackers’ attempts to break into Gmail accounts.
The hackers were part of a group called Fancy Bear, a cyberespionage group affiliated with the Russian government. Prior investigations discovered that the same group worked in the Kremlin’s interests when they hacked tens of thousands of emails from Democrats. The hacking disrupted the 2016 general election, and spurred allegations against Donald Trump for somehow being affiliated with the hack.
Philip Reiner, former senior director at the National Security Council, was targeted by the hacks in 2015. “It’s utterly confounding,” he said in reference to the lack of warnings. “You’ve got to tell your people. You’ve got to protect your people.”
Some victims of the Russian hacking say they still haven’t heard from the FBI at all.
The FBI declined questioning from the AP, but issued a statement saying, “The FBI routinely notifies individuals and organizations of potential threat information.”
Former Senior Administration at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Charles Sowell, said there is no excuse for the FBI’s failure, especially in light of the successful investigative work that the AP conducted from the data.
“It’s absolutely not OK for them to use an excuse that there’s too much data,” Mr. Sowell said. “Would that hold water if there were a serial killer investigation, and people were calling in tips left and right, and they were holding up their hands and saying, ‘It’s too much’? That’s ridiculous.”
The FBI’s failed handling of the Fancy Bear hacking has left many with questions, especially in light of other poor decisions. Back in March 2016, FBI agents warned Hillary Clinton’s campaign about a resurgence of password hackings, although agents refused to say who the hackers were. After the Democratic National Committee’s computer server was hacked by Fancy Bear in April 2016, it was later discovered that the FBI never took custody of the server to investigate it. Comey testified that the FBI investigated a “copy” of the server, which he deemed an “appropriate substitute.”
Former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who was a repeated target of hacks by Fancy Bear, never received any warnings from the FBI. “Our government needs to be taking greater responsibility to defend its citizens in both the physical and cyber worlds, now, before a cyberattack produces an even more catastrophic outcome than we have already experienced,” he said.
This scandal is yet another in the long list of scandals in the FBI under James Comey’s leadership. Comey continually proved that he failed to do his job sufficiently or objectively. President Trump was right to fire him.