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Wray: Russia Continues to Sow Discord  07/19 06:12

   ASPEN, Colo. (AP) -- FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday that 
Russia continues to use fake news, propaganda and covert operations to "spin 
up" Americans on both sides of hot-button issues to sow discord in the United 
States.

   Wray stood behind the intelligence agencies' assessment that Moscow meddled 
in the 2016 presidential election, dismissing Russian President Vladimir 
Putin's claim that his country was not involved.

   "He's got his view. I can tell you what my view is," Wray said at the 
opening event of the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. "The intelligence 
community's view has not changed. My view has not changed."

   Wray spoke after a day of controversy in Washington over whether President 
Donald Trump accepts the intelligence agencies' assessment and whether he 
believes Moscow is continuing to try to influence American elections or 
threaten the nation's infrastructure.

   Wray also dismissed Putin's offer to allow the U.S. access to 12 Russian 
military intelligence officers who have been indicted on charges of interfering 
in the election in return for being able to interview Americans the Kremlin has 
accused of unspecified crimes.

   The White House said it was under consideration. Wray dismissed the offer.

   "I never want to say never about anything," Wray said, "but it's certainly 
not high on our list of investigative techniques."

   Much of the conversation with Wray, which was moderated by NBC's Lester 
Holt, focused on Russia.

   "Russia continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day," 
Wray said.

   He said that while U.S. officials have not yet seen an effort by Russia to 
target specific election systems, it is aggressively engaged in influence 
operations to sow discord and divisiveness in America. "To me, it's a threat 
that we need to take very serious and respond to with fierce determination," 
Wray said.

   He said the Russians identify divisive issues, and through covert and overt 
operations, fake news and propaganda, they "spin people up on both sides of an 
issue and then kind of watch us go after each other."

   Russia isn't the only country threatening the U.S., Wray said.

   He said he thinks China, from a counterintelligence perspective, represents 
the broadest and most significant threat America faces. China wants to replace 
the United States as the most powerful economic engine in the world and is 
infiltrating American businesses to get an edge.

   "We have economic espionage investigations in all 50 states" that can be 
traced back to China, Wray said. "It covers everything from corn seeds in Iowa 
to wind turbines in Massachusetts and everything in between.

   "The volume of it. The pervasiveness of it. The significance of it is 
something that I think this country cannot underestimate."


(KA)

 
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