BREAKING: FBI Busted Keeping Massive Secret From U.S. Officials (DETAILS)

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Concurrent to the issue of whether or not the Trump team cooperated with Russians in efforts to sway the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, there remains the core issue of how Russians were able to have the opportunity to meddle in the election in the first place.

487567518 BREAKING: FBI Busted Keeping Massive Secret From U.S. Officials (DETAILS) Donald Trump Election 2016 Politics Russia Top Stories
James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, listens during a House Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Hacking attacks designed to alter electronic data, rather than steal it, may grow more common as terrorists and criminals seek to undermine the integrity of financial markets in the future, the head of U.S. intelligence is warning lawmakers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Russian government affiliated hackers broke into the personal email accounts of top Democratic officials and used that as a pretext for a disinformation campaign against Hillary Clinton.

GettyImages-802127906-1024x683 BREAKING: FBI Busted Keeping Massive Secret From U.S. Officials (DETAILS) Donald Trump Election 2016 Politics Russia Top Stories
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 27: Former Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta exits after meeting with the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, June 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Podesta’s personal email account was hacked in the final months of the 2016 campaign and later published on WikiLeaks. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The threat of Russian meddling in our political systems has not gone away, and a new investigation from the Associated Press has unveiled a disturbing breadth to the threat.

In nearly 80 cases, the AP has found that the government did not notify U.S. officials that they had been targeted by “Fancy Bear,” a Russian government linked hacking operation. The AP could only find two instances of officials having actually been notified that they were targeted.

633201508 BREAKING: FBI Busted Keeping Massive Secret From U.S. Officials (DETAILS) Donald Trump Election 2016 Politics Russia Top Stories
A photo illustration is seen with the website of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 31 January, 2017. In December the website was hacked and according to weekly Rzeczpospolita this was due to elite Russian hacker group APT28 also know as Fancy Bear cyber espionage group associated with the Russian intelligence services GRU. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The FBI has reportedly had information about the hacks for more than a year, but even still, they did not notify most of those affected about what was going on. Former senior director at the National Security Council Philip Reiner, who was targeted in 2015 — and hadn’t been notified by the government — called the situation “utterly confounding,” adding, “You’ve got to tell your people. You’ve got to protect your people.”

GettyImages-73534290-1024x683 BREAKING: FBI Busted Keeping Massive Secret From U.S. Officials (DETAILS) Donald Trump Election 2016 Politics Russia Top Stories

The AP didn’t get any real public explanation from the FBI, but they did speak to officials privately about the matter, getting an at least partial explanation, although it’s far from satisfactory.

The AP reports:

‘A senior FBI official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the hacking operation because of its sensitivity, declined to comment on timing but said that the bureau was overwhelmed by the sheer number of attempted hacks.’

That official added:

‘It’s a matter of triaging to the best of our ability the volume of the targets who are out there.’

The AP evaluated the Fancy Bear related target data itself, reportedly finding “more than 500 U.S.-based people or groups” who had been targeted. The AP reached out to 190 of those people or groups, interviewing 90 of them — and only finding two who had been notified they’d been targeted by the Russians.

GettyImages-863050398-1-1024x683 BREAKING: FBI Busted Keeping Massive Secret From U.S. Officials (DETAILS) Donald Trump Election 2016 Politics Russia Top Stories
WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 19: Committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) listen to testimony during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing concerning the roles and responsibilities for defending the nation against cyber attacks, on Capitol Hill, October 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. Rob Joyce, the Trump administration’s cybersecurity coordinator and member of the National Security Council, was invited to testify but did not appear at the hearing. Committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) accused the White House of blocking Joyce’s appearance before the committee. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Notably, a few of those spoken to by the AP were contacted by the FBI after their emails were released at some point during the debacle of the 2016 election. Only about one in four of those interviewed by the AP “were still in government or held security clearances at the time they were targeted.”

This is far from the first time that questions have been raised about the government’s handling of the Russian hacking threat during the 2016 election and beyond. Trump, in fact, has often used that talking point as a diversion from his own alleged crimes, although the fact that he won’t even stick to acknowledging the reality of the threat means his comments shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Besides denying his own team’s involvement in the situation, Trump has repeatedly suggested that it may not have been the Russians responsible for the infamous email hacks that pockmarked the 2016 elections. Thus, he’s certainly not going to be any help addressing the issues raised by this AP report.

Featured Image via Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images