The announcement marks the first time the US has accused Russia of hacking into US political systems. Earlier in the week, the two countries broke off formal talks about a resolution in Syria.
“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a joint statement.
“The recent disclosures of alleged hacked emails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” the statement added. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow — the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there.”
Officials told CNN that Friday’s announcement follows long deliberations within the Obama administration as to whether and when to take this step. They have had confidence on the assessment for some time. Only question was whether to go public.
In addition, the collapse of the US-Russian relationship in other areas, such as Syria, played a role as well.
CNN’s Evan Perez and Jim Sciutto contributed to this report.