Fractious politics, high national debt pose security threats, says USA intelligence director

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

USA intelligence officials said Russian President Vladimir Putin meddled in the 2016 US election, and now, with critical elections coming up in November and control of Congress at stake, officials said Tuesday that Putin is at it again.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats - who, in the wake of the House Intelligence Committee GOP staff memo alleging FISA abuses, began by thanking lawmakers for renewing Section 702 surveillance authorities that the IC considers the "most important collection issue against foreign terrorists and threats to America" - said that Russian Federation continues to deploy their influence efforts "because it's relatively cheap, it's low-risk, it offers what they perceive as plausible deniability and it's proven to be effective at sowing division".

Pakistan, in fact, will continue to threaten U.S. interests by deploying new nuclear weapons capabilities, maintaining its ties to militants, restricting counter-terrorism cooperation, and drawing closer to China, Coats said in his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Coats said that Russian Federation will continue using propaganda, false personas and social media to undermine the upcoming election.

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

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Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said it's been more than a year since the 2016 election, but the us still has no plan to battle foreign interference in elections.

"Russian intelligence services will continue their efforts to disseminate false information via Russian state-controlled media and covert online personas about U.S. activities to encourage anti-US political views", the report said. "This is not going to change or stop".

The charge of Russian meddling spawned a federal probe and congressional investigations into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow, throwing a shadow over the first year of Trump's presidency.

He said there should be a national outcry - that people need to stand up and say, "We're not going to allow some Russian to tell us how to vote, how to run our country".

In Germany's election last September, public discussion of a feared Russian cyber campaign, and an agreement among political parties not to exploit information gathered in cyber attacks - an accord unlikely to be replicated in the United States - appeared to help inoculate the country against outside meddling. They took advantage, a sophisticated advantage of social media.

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At the opening ceremony for the Games, Mr Pence , Kim Yo-jong and Kim Yong-nam were seated in close proximity to each other. The South Korean president also stressed the need for the communist North to resume its dialogue with the United States.

"The failure to address our long-term fiscal situation has increased the national debt to over 20 trillion (dollars) and growing", Coats said.

Pompeo added: "Senator Reed, we have a significant effort".

Pompeo said the sanctions decision had to be viewed in a broader context: The United States is checking and deterring Russian Federation across the globe, he said, from sanctions on Moscow's ally Venezuela to military action in Syria and beyond. Coats said foreign governments, terrorist groups, criminal organizations and individuals "are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States".

Asked by committee vice chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., whether they agreed that Russian activity is undiminished, all agreed with Coats.

Earlier in the hearing, Pompeo said that the intelligence community has offensive "capabilities" to "raise the costs to adversaries" seeking to hack into election systems to disrupt voting.

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