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Intelligence sources say “Russians are hacking the hell out of us”

The Obama Administration has been vowing to respond to Russia’s repeated and consistent hacking since early October, and that hacking is ongoing.  U.S. law enforcement officials told CBS that “cyberattacks are like cockroaches – there is always more than one.”  

Russian hacking units and intelligence operatives have continued to probe and breach U.S. government, military and political organizations, even after the hacking of Democratic operative files and emails over the summer, U.S. intelligence sources told CBS News. Another source said that the hacks also seemed to increase in frequency after the intrusions were discovered, a brazen display of cyber espionage. American intelligence officials have told CBS they are convinced that Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential election was approved by Putin, and that he was aware of attacks that began in July of last year.

The “Russians are hacking the hell out of us,” a source said, and “we aren’t doing anything about it.”

In addition to the hacking that targeted Democratic organizations and operatives, soon after the DNC’s email system was compromised, Russian hackers seized the email system used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in August 2015, CBS News’ David Martin reported Thursday. Martin Dempsey, who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time, told CBS News in an exclusive interview that that attack proceeded at an alarming speed -- within an hour, hackers had seized control of the unclassified e-mail system used by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, the organization of some 3,500 military officers and civilians who work for the Chairman.

And, in an interview that aired Friday, President Obama renewed his promise to take action, specifically in the wake of the intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian meddling in the presidential election.

“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections, that we need to take action and we will -- at a time and a place of our own choosing,” Mr. Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep, in response to a question about whether it was necessary for Russia to pay a price for interfering in the election. “Some of it may be...explicit and publicized. Some of it may not be.”

And he told Inskeep, “Mr. Putin is well aware of my feelings about this -- because I spoke to him directly about it.” 

CBS News’ Margaret Brennan reported that President Obama first confronted Putin about the Russian election hacking in September, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, according to senior Obama administration officials. 

In what was described as a blunt 90-minute long meeting, Mr. Obama let Putin know what the U.S. had discovered and warned that when it comes to cyber capabilities, the U.S. has more capacity to attack than anybody.

‎But the Russians were already aware that the U.S. had detected the intrusions, as Secretary of State John Kerry had previously raised it.  In a July meeting, Kerry alerted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov‎ that the U.S. had detected the intrusions of Democratic party systems and email hacking.