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Top intelligence chief: U.S. elections 'under attack' from Russia

By Sara Shayanian
Top intelligence chief: U.S. elections 'under attack' from Russia
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee during a hearing about worldwide threats on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. intelligence leaders warned a Senate committee Tuesday that Russia will continue to try to influence elections in the United States this year.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers testified before the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday to address potential national security threats.

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Coats said the Kremlin might attempt to influence the midterm elections this fall in the same way it did the 2016 presidential vote.

"There should be no doubt that Russia perceived its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations," Coats said.

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"Frankly, the United States is under attack."

The national intelligence director added that Russians are "likely to pursue even more aggressive cyberattacks" against future elections to "undermine democracy, sow discord and undermine our values."

The panel's ranking Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, said threats to many U.S. institutions come "right from home" with help from Russian Internet bots and trolls that attacked the integrity of the FBI and Department of Justice.

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On the issue, Warner cautioned that the United States is no better prepared to tackle potential interference now than it was 15 months ago.

"We've had more than a year to get our act together and address the threat posed by Russia and implement a strategy to deter further attacks," Warner said. "But I believe we still don't have a comprehensive plan."

Warner later asked each of the intelligence officials to reconfirm the intelligence community's conclusion that Russian agents -- with knowledge or direct approval from Russian President Vladimir Putin -- tried to sway the 2016 election in Republican candidate Donald Trump's favor

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Each of the officials, and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo, agreed.

Coats also said nations like China, Iran and North Korea pose the greatest global cyberthreats to the United States -- and that terrorists, criminal organizations and certain individuals are also engaging in computer-based attacks.

Meanwhile, Wray said on Tuesday that the FBI completed its background investigation on ex-White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter last year -- essentially contradicting what the Trump administration said about the ongoing "process."

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Wray said during the committee hearing that the FBI submitted a partial report to the White House about Porter in March and completed their investigation in July.

"I'm quite confident that in this particular instance the FBI followed the established protocols," Wray said.

Porter resigned on Feb. 7 after photographs were released documenting his abuse of two of his ex-wives.

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