(RFE/RL) — French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign said it was hit with a “massive and coordinated hacking attack” which resulted in the release online of a major trove of internal campaign documents late on May 5.
Macron’s En Marche! (On The Move) party said in a statement that the leaks came “in the last hour of the official campaign” and were “clearly” aimed at “democratic destabilization, like that seen during the last presidential campaign in the United States.”
Such a large-scale hacking is “unprecedented in a French electoral campaign,” it said.
The WikiLeaks website posted a link on Twitter to the trove of documents — saying it “contains many tens of thousands [of] e-mails, photos, attachments up to April 24, 2017.”Wikileaks indicated that it was not responsible for the leak itself, but did not say where it obtained the documents.
The documents also appeared of Pastebin, a document-sharing site that allows anonymous posting. The Pastebin document dump was posted by a user called EMLEAKS.
Similar leaks of Democratic campaign documents on Wikileaks and other online sites during the U.S. presidential election last year were eventually traced by U.S. intelligence agencies to hackers they said were working for the Russian government.
“The files circulating were obtained several weeks ago due to the hacking of the personal and professional mailboxes of several party officials,” and then were released just as campaigning for the May 7 presidential election officially ended at midnight on May 5, Macron’s campaign said.
While most of the leaked documents appear authentic, the campaign said, “those circulating these documents are adding many false documents to authentic documents in order to sow doubt and disinformation.”
The campaign said the leaks are clearly aimed at boosting the election prospects of Macron’s opponent, far-right nationalist leader Marine Le Pen.
“The aim of those behind this leak is, all evidence suggests, to hurt the En Marche! party several hours before the second round of the French presidential election,” it said.
“Throughout the campaign, En Marche! has constantly been the party the most targeted by such attempts, in an intense and repeated fashion,” it said.
Despite the apparently massive effort to sway the election, none of the leaked documents contained anything potentially damaging or embarrassing to Macron, the campaign maintained.
“The documents arising from the hacking are all lawful and show the normal functioning of a presidential campaign,” it said..
Whether there is time before the election for the public to even learn what’s in the huge trove of documents was a question, however. WikiLeaks said there were around 9 gigabytes of data in total.
Moreover, French journalists are prohibited by law from publicizing the material in the hours left before the vote. Soon after the documents were released, France’s electoral commission issued guidance asking French publications to refrain from covering them.
“Free and fair elections are at play,” the commission said in a statement, adding that some of the documents probably were fake and there could penalties — even criminal ones — for rebroadcasting forged documents.
Macron’s campaign first disclosed its was under attack by hackers in February, and at that time it blamed a hackers’ group operating out of Russia or Ukraine.
It did not say who could be behind the May 7 leaks. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement ir interference in the French election.
The French Interior Ministry declined to comment on the leaks, citing French rules which forbid any commentary that could influence an election in the day before the vote.
The last opinion polls taken before the election show Macron was heavily favored to win with about 62 percent of the vote.