Leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies warned on Tuesday that Russia will try to interfere in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections by using social media to spread propaganda and misleading reports, much as it did in the 2016 campaign.
|U.S. 2018 elections 'under attack' by Russia: U.S. intelligence chief. Reuters
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a congressional committee that Russia and other foreign entities were likely to attack U.S. and European elections this year and beyond, adding that Moscow believes similar efforts successfully undermined U.S. democracy two years ago.
Coats, a former senator appointed by President Donald Trump as Washington’s top intelligence official, said he had already seen evidence Russia was targeting U.S. elections in November, when Republican control of the House of Representatives and Senate are at stake, plus a host of positions in state governments.
“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” Coats said at the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on worldwide threats.
Coats’ assessment runs counter to statements from Trump, who has cast doubt on the notion of Russian meddling and denied any collusion by his associates with Russia ahead of his surprise November 2016 defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
U.S. spy agencies concluded more than a year ago that Russia used hacking and propaganda to try to tilt that election in favor of the Republican. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied this and Trump has said he believes him.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Coats said.
Coats said “persistent and disruptive cyber operations” would continue “using elections as opportunities to undermine democracy” in the United States and its European allies.
Coats described a range of ways in which Russia might try to influence this year’s vote.
“At a minimum, we expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” he said.Reuters