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Intelligence And Defense Officials Call For Bipartisan Investigation Into Russian Hacking

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were among the signatories.

Posted on January 4, 2017, at 10:24 a.m. ET

Sputnik / Reuters

Russia's President Vladimir Putin makes his annual New Year address to the nation in Moscow, Russia, December 31, 2016.

WASHINGTON — Several high-profile intelligence experts have signed a letter in support of legislation calling to create a bipartisan commission to look into “foreign interference” during the 2016 election that was introduced by House Democrats last month.

Among the letter's signers are former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and former Acting Director of the CIA Michael Morrell.

"To understand fully and publicly what happened, how we were so vulnerable, and what we can do to protect our democracy in future elections, we the undersigned strongly encourage the Congress to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate efforts by the Russian Federation to influence or interfere with the U.S. presidential election in 2016," the letter, which was obtained early by BuzzFeed News, states.

The letter also warns that "some have questioned whether the Russian government, despite the conclusion of 17 of our intelligence agencies, was really responsible for the hacks. Such doubts only reinforce why an independent, inquiry should occur outside of Congress."

"This inquiry should occur immediately. Anything less than a swift investigation will leave us vulnerable to another attack and, possibly worse, permit and normalize future interference."

Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings and Eric Swalwell introduced legislation to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the hacks, but no House Republican members have yet expressed support.

Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in December he would not open a new investigation into the cyberattacks, stating that he believed the effort would be redundant. Nunes’ office confirmed to BuzzFeed News that his position remains the same.

“I’m giving Republicans every opportunity to make this a bipartisan bill,” Swalwell told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday. "It's my preference that it be bipartisan."

Swalwell added the legislation would be reintroduced in the new Congress in the next few days, by next week at the latest. He said he has reached out to specific Republicans in the House intelligence, armed services, foreign affairs, judiciary and oversight and government reform committees.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.