The FBI failed to notify scores of U.S. officials that Russian hackers were trying to break into their personal Gmail accounts despite having evidence for at least a year that the Kremlin had targeted them, the Associated Press reports. Nearly 80 interviews with Americans targeted by Fancy Bear, a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage group, turned up only two cases in which the FBI had provided a heads-up. Even senior policymakers discovered they were targets only when the AP told them, a situation some described as bizarre and dispiriting. “It’s utterly confounding,” said Philip Reiner, a former director at the National Security Council, who was told by the AP that he was targeted in 2015. “You’ve got to tell your people. You’ve got to protect your people.” The FBI declined to discuss its investigation into Fancy Bear’s spying campaign, but said, “The FBI routinely notifies individuals and organizations of potential threat information.”
Three people familiar with the matter said the FBI has known for more than a year the details of Fancy Bear’s attempts to break into Gmail inboxes. A senior FBI official said that the bureau was overwhelmed by the sheer number of attempted hacks. “It’s a matter of triaging to the best of our ability the volume of the targets who are out there,” he said. AP reporters spent two months going through a hit list of Fancy Bear targets provided by the cybersecurity firm Secureworks. The AP has reported on how Fancy Bear worked in close alignment with the Kremlin’s interests to steal tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic Party . The hacking campaign disrupted the 2016 U.S. election and cast a shadow over the presidency of Donald Trump, whom U.S. intelligence agencies say the hackers were trying to help. The Russian government has denied interfering in the election.