The Obama administration on Friday for the first time squarely blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin's government for a series of hacking attacks and email leaks, saying the goal was "to interfere with the U.S. election process."

"The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations," the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in an extraordinary gloves-off statement.

"We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities."

The statement linked the Kremlin to disclosures on the sites DCLeaks, WikiLeaks and by Guccifer 2.0, which have leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, among others.

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However, the statement said the intelligence community could not attribute scanning and probing of state election systems to the Russian government, even though the activity originated from servers operated by a Russian company.

"It would be extremely difficult for someone, including a nation-state actor, to alter actual ballot counts or election results by cyber attack or intrusion," the statement said.

"This assessment is based on the decentralized nature of our election system in this country and the number of protections state and local election officials have in place. States ensure that voting machines are not connected to the Internet, and there are numerous checks and balances as well as extensive oversight at multiple levels built into our election process."

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There was no immediate reaction from Moscow.

For weeks, U.S. officials have been saying on background that they believe the Kremlin is behind the wave of hacks and leaks, but Friday's statement is the first public accusation.

A senior U.S. official told NBC News the statement shows the administration "is under the illusion that naming and shaming may work on Russia."

But Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, applauded the administration for calling out Russia.

"We should now work with our European allies who have been the victim of similar and even more malicious cyber interference by Russia to develop a concerted response that protects our institutions and deters further meddling," he said.