Experts paint sinister picture of Russian meddling


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Russian experts painted a sinister picture of Russian meddling in the 2016 election Thursday, telling the Senate intelligence committee about fake news, cyber trolls, smear campaigns and even slayings they say could have ties to the Kremlin.

The hearing focused on tactics Moscow is thought to employ in spreading disinformation to influence the opinions of Americans and U.S. policy. There were a few unexpected revelations in the more than four hours of testimony from historians, cyber experts and former intelligence officials.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told his colleagues on the committee that during the previous 24 hours, his former presidential campaign team was unsuccessfully targeted – for the second time – by hackers at an unknown internet address in Russia. House Speaker Paul Ryan also was targeted by internet hackers recently, said Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

All the witnesses stressed the magnitude of the Russian disinformation campaign not only in the U.S. but Europe as well. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the committee, called it Russian propaganda “on steroids.” Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr said the problem is going to require a global response.

“We’re within 30 days of what is a primary election in France. It could be that the Russians have done enough to make sure that a candidate that went to Russia recently, a socialist, made the runoff. We could end up with a pro-Russian government in France,” said Burr, R-N.C. “We don’t know what the effects are going to be in Germany. But we’ve actually seen them (Russia) build up a party in Germany.”

Eugene Rumer from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said the Russian work is not always conducted in the shadows.

“That Russian effort is before us in plain sight – in state-sponsored propaganda broadcasts on RT (Russia Today) in countless internet trolls, fake or distorted news spread by fake news services,” Rumer said.

Watts also said no one is talking about the cache of information that Russia still has.

“They hacked 3,000 to 4,000 people. This hacking was pervasive,” Watts said, lamenting how the American people have focused too much on the election season hack of the Democratic National Committee. “They have our information” and could use it later for political purposes.

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