The FBI requested direct access to the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) hacked computer servers but was denied, Director James Comey told lawmakers on Tuesday.
The bureau made “multiple requests at different levels,” according to Comey, but ultimately struck an agreement with the DNC that a “highly respected private company” would get access and share what it found with investigators.
“We’d always prefer to have access hands-on ourselves if that’s possible,” Comey said, noting that he didn’t know why the DNC rebuffed the FBI’s request.
The director was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a rare open session on Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
The DNC and the bureau have been quibbling in news reports over whether the FBI asked to examine its servers directly.
The DNC told BuzzFeed in a statement published last week that the FBI never requested access to its servers after they were breached.
But a senior law enforcement official disputed that characterization the following day.
“The FBI repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data, only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated,” the official said.
“This left the FBI no choice but to rely upon a third party for information. These actions caused significant delays and inhibited the FBI from addressing the intrusion earlier.”
CrowdStrike, the private security firm in question, has published extensive forensic analysis backing up its assessment that the threat groups that infiltrated the DNC were associated with Russian intelligence.