DNI: Russians May Target Midterm Elections

By Susan Jones | March 6, 2018 | 11:03am EST
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifying in the Senate Armed Services Committee, March 6, 2018. (Screen Capture)

(CNSNews.com) – Russia isn’t done meddling in our elections, the director of national intelligence told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

“Foreign elections are critical inflection points that offer opportunities for Russia to advance its interests, both overtly and covertly,” Coats said in his written testimony. “The 2018 U.S. midterm elections are a potential target for Russian influence operations.

“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.”

Coats told Congress that cyber threats are one of his "greatest concerns and top priorities."

"From U.S. businesses to the federal government to state and local governments, we are under cyber-attack," he said.

While state actors pose the greatest threat, the "democratization" of cyber capabilities is allowing a broader range of actors to pursue "malign activities" against the United States."

It's not just Russia:

"In addition to Russian actors, we will see Chinese, Iranian and North Korean cyber actors continue to build up past successes to improve the scope and scale of their cyber capabilities."

Coats said there are “ongoing discussions” among various federal agencies about the cyber threat in general.

Coats said he has personally discussed the issue with the president of the United States, “and he has said, ‘I assume you are doing your job, all of you who head up these agencies, relative to cyber, but if you need for me to…direct you to do it, do it.’”

But Coats also said that Trump’s direction to “go forward on cyber” was not made in the context of Russian election meddling.

Asked if Trump has specifically directed the intelligence community to either counter, deter, retaliate or take any action against Russia for interfering in U.S. elections, Coats said he would prefer discuss that in a classified setting.

Last week, Adm. Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command, told the same committee that President Trump had not given him “specific direction” or authority to counter Russian interference in U.S. elections.

“I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here, and that therefore I (he) can continue this activity,” Rogers said.

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