FBI director: Russia increasing interference efforts leading into 2020 election

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing on worldwide threats on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on January 29, 2019. Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI

April 27 (UPI) — FBI Director Christopher Wray called the 2018 midterm elections a “dress rehearsal” for the Russians to commit even more election interference in the 2020 presidential election.

During a discussion Friday at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Wray talked about U.S. intelligence agencies’ enhancement of security measures to protect the 2020 presidential election from foreign influence. Meanwhile, Russian agents continue to adapt their infiltration techniques to stay ahead of U.S. government efforts.

Wray talked about Russia’s “use of social media, fake news, propaganda, false personas, et cetera, to spin us up, pit us against each other, sow divisiveness and discord, undermine Americans’ faith in democracy.”

He added, “This is not just an election-cycle threat; it’s pretty much a 365-days-a-year threat.”

Since Russians created fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to confuse users during the 2016 elections, Wray says the FBI has worked harder to keep track of foreign activity on those platforms.

“The flow of information back and forth between law enforcement and the intelligence community and Silicon Valley, I think, has gotten dramatically better,” Wray said. “I think those companies recognize that there is a need for them to take action, so that their own platforms are not abused.”

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But Wray still fears interference by Russia.

“Well, I think-on the one hand I think enormous strides have been made since 2016 by all the different federal agencies, state and local election officials, the social media companies, et cetera,” Wray said. “But I think we recognize that our adversaries are going to keep adapting and upping their game. And so we’re very much viewing 2018 as just kind of a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020.”

In 2017, Facebook estimated 470 Russian-backed accounts infiltrated, while Twitter had more than 50,000 accounts linked to super power.

One DHS official testified to Congress in January that defense capabilities against a foreign threat to the voting system exceeded those in 2016 by “light years.”

FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials have praised President Donald Trump for his help to keep the election systems safe from interference by other nations.

However, former Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was warned by White House aides not to discuss possible interference with Trump, it was reported last week by The New York Times.

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