US Attorney General William Barr attends a press conference to release an update on the investigation into the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing on the 32nd anniversary of the attack at the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC, United States, on December 21, 2020 .
Michael Reynolds | Reuters
WASHINGTON – Outgoing Attorney General William Barr said Monday that the massive SolarWinds hack by US government agencies “certainly” appears to be Russia’s job, which President Donald Trump contradicts.
Barr identified Russia as the likely perpetrator of the cyber attack and sided with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the rest of the National Security Institute, but contradicted the president.
Barr made the remarks during an impromptu press conference just two days before he was due to leave his job.
After several days of silence over the sweeping violation of government and private sector networks, Trump downplayed the severity of the attack in two tweets over the weekend, suggesting without evidence that it could be China, not Russia, to blame.
“The cyber hack is far bigger in the fake news media than it is in reality,” wrote Trump. “I’ve been given full information and everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the primary chant if something happens because Lamestream is petrified, for largely financial reasons, to discuss the possibility that it could be China (it can be !). “”
Trump also suggested without evidence that the hack could have affected the election software in the November presidential election. This was the latest in a series of increasingly far-fetched conspiracy theories put forward by the President in his persistent refusal to accept that he lost the election.
Pompeo’s first public comments on the attack came during a radio interview on Friday night on “The Mark Levin Show”.
“This has been a very significant effort and I think it is the case that we can now say fairly clearly that it was the Russians who took part in this activity,” said Pompeo.
Several news outlets have also reported that White House officials prepared a public statement on the cyberattacks late last week, transferring responsibility for the hack directly to Russia. But at the last minute they were forbidden from releasing it.
More than a week after the first breach was reported, both U.S. government agencies and private sector companies affected by the attack are still working to get a full picture of the extent of the breach and the potential damage to U.S. cyber infrastructure and the critical information systems to develop.
The initial investigation revealed that the breach was malicious code hidden in a software update from widely used IT management company SolarWinds. Russia has denied any involvement in the attack.
The three lead agencies responsible for investigating the attack and protecting the nation from cyber threats, the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, announced last week that they formed a joint organization in command to respond to what is known as a “major and ongoing cybersecurity campaign” against the United States.
Trump’s refusal to acknowledge either the full extent of the attack or his likely perpetrators fits his pattern over the past four years as he downplayed Russia’s malicious actions around the world.
As part of this pattern, Trump has ignored and denied US intelligence assessments of Russia’s guilt for several major operations, particularly the 2016 cyberattacks and disinformation campaign that harmed Trump’s then-opponent Hillary Clinton.