U.S. Presidential Election Hacks Raise Fears of Russian Influence

Recent hacks of election data systems in at least two states have raised fear among lawmakers and intelligence officials that a foreign government is trying to seed doubt about -- or even manipulate -- the presidential race, renewing debate over when cyberattacks cross red lines and warrant a U.S. response.

Federal officials already are investigating cyberattacks at the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, believed to be the work of hackers tied to the Russian government. Trolling a private organization's emails is one thing, cyberexperts say, but breaching state election systems to undermine the integrity of the November ballot would be quite another.

"The mere access to those systems is incredibly concerning to me," said Sean Kanuck, former national intelligence officer for cyber issues at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "I think that the manipulation of election data or voting systems would warrant a national security response."

No one has yet confirmed that data was actually manipulated. Law enforcement and intelligence officials are investigating the election-related breaches, but also are looking at the extent to which Russia could be involved in a disinformation campaign to diminish U.S. clout worldwide. Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow wasn't involved in the hacking of emails of the Democratic Party.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump [pictured above] said last week he thinks it's unlikely that Russia is trying to influence the election. "I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out," he said on RT America, the U.S. partner of Kremlin-backed network Russia Today.

But Defense Secretary Ash Carter issued a public warning to Moscow last week while in Europe. "We will not ignore attempts to interfere with our democratic processes," Carter said. Asked later to elaborate, Carter said he was referring to Russia's use of hybrid warfare -- "interference in the internal...

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