Russia wants to watch Americans “tear ourselves apart” as the United States heads toward elections, an FBI official warned Monday.
David Porter, an assistant section chief with the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, accused Russia of conducting brazen operations aimed at spreading disinformation, exploiting lines of division in society and sowing doubt about the integrity of U.S. elections and the ability of its leaders to govern effectively.
Porter spoke at an election security conference on Capitol Hill just days after conflicting accounts emerged of a closed-door briefing intelligence officials had given to House lawmakers on threats from Russia and other nations in the 2020 election. That briefing focused attention on the possibility that Russia could work to aid President Donald Trump’s reelection. Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders has said intelligence officials told him that Russia was looking to boost his candidacy, too.
Porter did not address the briefing or whether Russia had a preference for particular candidates. But he said Russia was generally engaged in “information confrontation” aimed at blurring fact from fiction, eroding American confidence in democratic institutions and driving wedges into society’s fracture lines.
“The primary objective is not to create a particular version of the truth but rather cloud the truth and erode our ability to find it, creating a sentiment that no narrative or news source can be trusted at all,” Porter said.
The FBI formed the Foreign Influence Task Force after widespread interference by Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign. The task force was initially intended to focus on Russia, but it also works to counter influence operations — including hacking and more covert methods — from China, North Korea and Iran.
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