White House saw 'secret documents'

WASHINGTON • At least three senior White House officials, including the National Security Council's top lawyer, were involved in the handling of intelligence files - showing Trump campaign officials had been swept up in United States surveillance of foreign nationals - that were shared with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, according to US officials.

The White House role in the matter contradicts assertions by the committee chairman, Republican Representative Devin Nunes of California, and adds to mounting concerns that the Trump administration is collaborating with the leader of the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian meddling in last year's presidential election.

Though White House officials have refused to answer questions about the documents shared with Mr Nunes, a White House letter to the House committee on Thursday said officials had "discovered documents" that might show whether information collected was mishandled.

Meanwhile, Senator Marco Rubio said on Thursday during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia that his presidential campaign had been a target of apparent Russian cyber attacks.

A cyber security expert also testified that Mr Rubio might have been the victim of a Russian online smear campaign.

Mr Clint Watts, an expert in terrorism forecasting and Russian influence operations from the Foreign Policy Research Institute, also testified before the committee in a rare open hearing with cyber security, intelligence and Russian-history experts - which leaders billed as a "primer" on Russian influence-peddling.

"This past week, we observed social media accounts discrediting US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan," said Mr Watts.

While Mr Watts and the other witnesses are not involved in ongoing investigations into Russia's alleged efforts to swing the election towards Mr Donald Trump, and possible links between the Kremlin and the presidential campaigns, they argued that such meddling is only one example of what Russia plans to do with the arsenal of hacking and influence tools it has been building for years.

WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2017, with the headline 'White House saw 'secret documents''. Print Edition | Subscribe