FBI chief warns of Rus­sian ‘info war­fare’

Antelope Valley Press - - OPINION -

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.

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