WASHINGTON: The Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday (Saturday in Manila) announced a probe into Russian spying, saying US intelligence reports of Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to US parties “raise profound concerns.”
The probe, supported by both Democrats and Republicans on the panel, could see officials of both Barack Obama’s outgoing administration and the incoming government of Donald Trump, who won the November 8 presidential vote, forced to testify.
US intelligence agencies allege that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a covert effort to interfere in the election to boost Trump and harm his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
A report from the Director of National Intelligence released January 6 says the Russians hacked Democratic Party computers and accounts to release files embarrassing to Clinton, and also conducted a campaign of media manipulation with the same aim.
But the public version of the report was questioned for offering only weak evidence of its claims.
Meanwhile, this week an unproven dossier compiled by a former British MI6 intelligence agent alleged closer ties between the Trump campaign and Russian government, and said Moscow had lurid video of Trump with prostitutes while in Russia.
“As part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s oversight responsibilities, we believe that it is critical to have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States,” the Senate committee said in a statement.
Trump, who will take office in one week, has repeatedly rejected suggestions that Moscow aided in his election victory.
He has also compared US intelligence agencies to “Nazi Germany” for allegedly leaking to the media their analyses to undermine him.
The probe will review the intelligence community’s assessments and also other assessments, “including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns,” the committee said.
That suggested the former British spy’s explosive report could also be reviewed.
But the committee said most of the work will be done out of public scrutiny to protect classified information.
“The Committee will follow the intelligence wherever it leads. We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right,” they said.