Fractious politics, debt pose security threats: US intelligence director

FBI Director Christopher Wray CIA Director Mike Pompeo DNI Dan Coats and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley

REUTERS Leah Millis

The Trump administration detailed Russia's plans in this year's global threats assessment, which deems the USA midterm elections to be a "potential target for Russian influence operations".

He said Russia, China, Iran and North Korea "pose the greatest threats" to the electronic operations of US government and commerce.

US spy agencies said past year they had determined Russian Federation used hacking and propaganda in an effort to tilt the 2016 presidential election in favor of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump.

He said there should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 USA midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.

USA officials have long anxious that Russian Federation might interfere in the upcoming elections, repeating a campaign of disruption it waged during the 2016 US presidential vote and a series of European elections in 2017.

"This is is not going to change or stop", said the National Security Agency's Director, Admiral Michael Rogers, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Despite all of this, the President inconceivably continues to deny the threat posed by Russia", Warner continued.

Sen. Angus King (I-Me.) said he understood Trump's "sensitivity" surrounding Russian Federation, but said there was "no question" about the country's attempts to meddle int he election. With voting in some parts of the country beginning in March, the intelligence community is educating state and local governments for the attacks, he said.

He stressed that "As it acquires USA firms, and technology, and intellectual property, as well as the know-how to put it to use, the risk is that the Chinese government, which has its tentacles not just in state-owned Chinese companies, but also in so-called private Chinese firms, that it will get its hands on these capabilities and use them against us".

At Tuesday's meeting, Coats was joined by leaders of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the F.B.I. and other intelligence agencies.

Space. Russia and China will launch more reconnaissance, communications and navigational satellites, Coats predicted, and their "counterspace weapons will mature over the next few years as each country pursues anti-satellite weapons". Pompeo deferred questions about response to Russian Federation later in the hearing, as well, telling Jack Reed (D-RI) that "We have a significant effort, I'm happy to talk to you about in closed session, and it's not just our effort".

Coats said no single agency, but said that they were getting more support from the private sector (edge providers primarily). "The Central Intelligence Agency did not provide any resources, no money to these two individuals who proffered USA government information directly or indirectly at any time".

He went on to add that academia was a particularly rife area for intelligence "collectors", be it professors, scientists or students.

"There were efforts by Russian Federation and likely by other countries to involve or influence American elections and we take that very seriously", Pence said.

Russian hackers targeted the election systems of 21 U.S. states.

The bureau is under fire from President Trump and his GOP allies for its handling of investigations related to Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

"It is our hope and our belief that before the primaries begin, we intend to have an overview of our findings that will be public", said Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the panel.

In a report released in January 2017, US intelligence agencies concluded that Russian Federation engaged in a hacking-and-propaganda effort aimed at influencing the 2016 vote.

Latest News