The FBI told the Illinois Republican Party in June that some of its email accounts may have been hacked, the state GOP's executive director revealed on Sunday (11 December). Nick Klitzing said the state GOP discovered 18 of its emails on the website DCLeaks.com, which is believed to be created by individuals connected to Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU.
Klitzing said the FBI raised questions about four email accounts, which were either inactive or rarely used, The Chicago Tribune reported. The hacked emails dated to 2015, before the 2016 elections for president and Illinois offices.
The FBI did not tell the state party that the discovery of the potential hacking was part of an extensive federal investigation of Russian activity in the US political system. However, FBI agents urged party officials to take steps to secure their email accounts, including changing passwords.
"We thought it was weird that the FBI was giving IT advice," Klitzing told the Tribune. He said that the June visit was the last time the state party heard from the FBI and it was not told who might have been behind the hacking.
According to the Tribune, which reviewed the emails provided by the state GOP, the emails dealt with training requests, invitations to party events and half-dozen emails from Chicago businessman Peter Smith about the race to replace John Boehner as House speaker. Smith's emails were sent to Richard Porter, the state's Republican national committeeman.
Klitzing's revelation follow the national GOP's claim that it was not hacked. Republican National Committee Chairman and incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus denied the report by The New York Times that the RNC was hacked by Russians.
"We contacted the FBI months ago when the [alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee] issue came about. They reviewed all of our systems. We have hacking-detection system in place, and the conclusion was then, as it was again two days ago when we went back to the FBI to ask them about this, that the RNC was not hacked," Priebus said on ABC News' This Week.
The Times reported that intelligence agencies concluded with "high confidence" that Russian hackers infiltrated both the RNC and DNC's internal communications but only released information obtained from the DNC in order to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign. Priebus denied the report, calling it "absolutely not true".
According to ABC News, Priebus also claimed that an October report from 17 different US intelligence agency did not definitively accused Russia of being responsible for the hacks. "They didn't conclude it was Russia," he said. A joint statement in October by the Department of Homeland Security and the office of the director of national intelligence, however, does name the Russian government as the responsible party.
The hacking in Illinois would be the second known hacking involving the political system. In June, information on as many as 90,000 Illinois voters was hacked. State Board of Elections officials said that no files on registered voters were erased or modified and no voting history information or voter signatures were taken.