FBI chief warns of Russian ‘info warfare’
Here we go again.
FBI Director Chris Wray said that Russia is engaged in more “information warfare” heading into the 2020 presidential election.
He also said that law enforcement has not yet seen ongoing efforts by Russia to target America’s election infrastructure.
Time magazine reported that Wray told the House Judiciary Committee that Russia, just as it did in 2016, is relying on a covert social media campaign aimed at dividing American public opinion and sowing discord.
That effort which involves fictional personas, bots, social media postings and disinformation, may have an election-year uptick but is also a round-the-clock threat that is in some ways harder to combat than an election system hack, the FBI director said.
“Unlike a cyberattack on an election infrastructure, that kind of effort — disinformation — in a world where we have a First Amendment and believe strongly in freedom of expression, the FBI is not going to be in the business of being the truth police and monitoring disinformation online,” Wray said.
The Department of Homeland Security and FBI are on alert for election-related cyber activity like what occurred in 2016, when Russians hacked emails belonging to the Democratic campaign of nominee Hillary Clinton and probed local election systems for vulnerabilities.
But on Wednesday, Wray said, “I don’t think we’ve seen any ongoing efforts to target election infrastructure like we did in 2016.”
The director’s appearance came two days after Democratic presidential caucuses in Iowa were damaged by a malfunction app that caused a delay in the reporting of results.
Though local and federal officials have stressed that the problems weren’t caused by a foreign intrusion, the error played into existing unease surrounding election security and risked amplifying concerns among Americans about the integrity of the voting process.
Even without signs of election system targeting, Wray said Russian efforts to interfere in the election through disinformation had not tapered off since 2016. He said social media had injected “steroids” into these efforts.
He explained that “They identify an issue that they know the American people feel passionately about on both sides and then they take both sides and spin them up so they pit us against each other.
And then they combine that with an effort to weaken our confidence in our elections and our democratic institutions, which has been a pernicious and asymmetric way of engaging in information warfare.”
At one point in the hearing, Wray avoided a direct answer when asked if President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr or other administration officials had asked him for investigations into Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden, his son Hunter, or into any members of Congress.
The question was posed by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee chairman and one of seven House Democratic managers of the impeachment case.
He asked whether Trump had requested FBI investigations into the Bidens, lawmakers or former national security adviser John Bolton — who is due out with a book next month said to undercut a key Trump defense — as possible payback for impeachment.
Wray initially said, “I have assured the Congress, and I can assure Congress today, that the FBI will only open investigations based on facts, and the law and proper predication.”
Our nation is being tortured by Russia’s ongoing interference and we’ve got to put a stop to it. We must continue our democratic systems delegated to us by our founders.