Now that Robert Mueller, the Russiagate special counsel, has indicted 13 Russian actors—including the shadowy Internet Research Agency, the “troll farm” that used social media to help elect Donald Trump, as well as Yevgeny Prigozhin, a key Russian oligarch and friend of Vladimir Putin—for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, could his next act be to indict Russians involved in the hacking attack against the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta? Important evidence, including secrets obtained by Dutch intelligence, points in that direction.
In this space last week, I reported that as early as December 2016, just a few weeks after Trump’s Electoral College victory, The New York Times informed us that US intelligence agencies had identified specific individuals from Russian intelligence who’d overseen the hackers from APT28 and APT29, better known as, respectively, Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear. In other words, for more than a year now, and probably going back much longer, the US intelligence community—including the FBI, and therefore the investigators in the Office of the Special Counsel, too—has probably known who inside the GRU, Russia’s military-intelligence agency, and the SVR, its foreign-intelligence service, was responsible for the two bears, for the DNC and Podesta hacks, and presumably for the release of the stolen e-mails to WikiLeaks and other outlets in 2016.
In November 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI and the Justice Department had identified at least half a dozen implicated Russians, and that the department is preparing to charge them with criminal acts as a result. “The Justice Department has identified more than six members of the Russian government involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and swiping sensitive information that became public during the 2016 presidential election, according to people familiar with the investigation,” said the Journal report, by Aruna Viswanatha and Del Quentin Wilber. “Prosecutors and agents have assembled evidence to charge the Russian officials and could bring a case next year, these people said. Discussions about the case are in the early stages, they said.” Could bring a case next year—meaning, 2018.
Neither the 2016 Times report nor the Journal’s story in November said much about how the United States might have identified the Russians. Now, thanks to a report in the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant by Huib Modderkolk, it appears that as early as 2014 Holland’s General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) had hacked into Cozy Bear’s innermost workings—including, astonishingly, its internal security cameras. And AIVD spent as long as the next two and half years watching Cozy Bear do its dirty work, including the DNC break-in. “Unbeknownst to the Russians, they could see everything,” reported de Volkskrant.