Published: Wed, February 14, 2018
World | By Melba Underwood

Intel chiefs: Don't be fooled by North Korea's 'smile campaign'

Intel chiefs: Don't be fooled by North Korea's 'smile campaign'

The heads of six major intelligence agencies told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that Moscow sees the midterm elections as a potential target for "influence operations".

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a congressional committee that Russian Federation and other foreign entities were likely to attack USA and European elections this year and beyond, adding that Moscow believes similar efforts successfully undermined US democracy two years ago.

Pyongyang also will use cyber operations to raise funds and gather intelligence or launch attacks on South Korea and the US.

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

Even as his intelligence chiefs unanimously told a Senate panel Tuesday that Russian Federation meddled in 2016 and is planning to do so again in 2018, three sources familiar with the President's thinking say he remains unconvinced that Russian Federation interfered in the presidential election.

President Donald Trump is facing sharp criticism for failing to act decisively to head off potential attempts by Russian Federation to interfere in the upcoming US midterm elections.

Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo also attended the hearing. Their testimony was in stark contrast to the President's repeated claims that there was no meddling in the 2016 election.

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According to the intelligence community's January 7, 2017, assessment, the order to mess with the Trump-Clinton race came from the very top - and Russian leadership had a clear inclination. Bogus gay and gun rights organizations, and even a phony dog lovers group, all went to war online - with social media posts often amplified by Russian cyberbots.

"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.

"The more transparency we can provide to the American people, to people of nations that see this threat coming, the better off we will we be", Coats said. "Militant groups supported by Islamabad will continue to take advantage of their safe haven in Pakistan to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, including against U.S. interests", Coats said during the hearing on "Worldwide Threat Assessment" of the United States intelligence community. "I think the American people are ready for this".

FBI Director Christopher Wray said that his agency and the Department of Homeland Security have scheduled meetings with state election officials to brief them on cyber threats.

Pompeo also said that President Donald Trump's language helped Kim understand that "America is serious".

The New York Times and The Intercept reported last week that intelligence officials agreed past year to pay hackers over a $1 million in order to obtain information that was said to include compromising information on Trump. "I'd argue your statement that we have done nothing does not reflect the responses that frankly some of us at this table have engaged in and the United States government engaged in, during and before this administration", Pompeo said.

"Russian trolls and bots continue to push divisive content, both in the United States, and against all our allies in Europe - not only the UK, but, as we've talked before, France, Germany, Netherlands".

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