Russia will likely be the “most capable and aggressive source” of influence in forthcoming U.S. elections, according to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
According to a lengthy statement given to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Coats said influence operations “especially through cyber means” will remain a threat to the U.S. to “shape foreign perceptions and to influence populations.”
“Russia probably will be the most capable and aggressive source of this threat in 2018,” he said.
Coats added the U.S. intelligence committee will continue to assess the country’s efforts “to disseminate false information via Russian state-controlled media and covert online personas about U.S. activities to encourage anti-U.S. political views.”
The upcoming 2018 midterm elections are a potential target, Coats said, adding that the intelligence community expects Russia to use “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.”
“Frankly, the United States is under attack. Under attack by entities that are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States,” he said.
Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s top Democrat, asked all intelligence heads participating in the hearing to “reconfirm to the American public that our intelligence community understands” the threat from Russia and its cyber attacks, and that the Kremlin had a hand in the 2016 presidential election and won’t change or stop its behavior in 2018.
In addition to Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, NSA Director Michael Rogers, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo said yes.