The U.S. is playing catch-up with an immense Russian effort to penetrate U.S. intelligence networks.
“The failure to understand Putin’s plans and intentions has been the largest intelligence failure since 9/11,” Congressman Devin Nunes told The Washington Post. Nune’s comments follow a ramped up effort by the U.S. intelligence community to focus efforts on the Kremlin.
The U.S. reportedly had negligible intelligence capabilities during the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the subsequent Russian invasion of Ukraine, its intervention in Syria, and sustained cyber manipulation efforts throughout Europe.
Russia’s cyber manipulation gained attention in the U.S. after the leak of several thousand Democratic National Committee emails. Two independent cyber security expert firms attributed the hack to Russian intelligence agencies, and the U.S. intelligence community told the White House it had “high confidence” Russia was responsible.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objective is to restore the power of the former Soviet Union, which he called a “catastrophe” in 2005. Putin has opted to adopt a world view that sees NATO and the EU as existential threats to Russia’s goals.
Reports indicate the U.S. intelligence community now dedicates 10 percent of its annual budget towards Russia, a significant increase than past years. The U.S. intelligence community has been generally focused on U.S. efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the broader Islamic terror threat.
Officials allege Russia has over 150 operatives scattered across the U.S. collecting intelligence on the entire U.S. intelligence network. These same officials told The Washington Post the U.S. only has a few dozen case officers in Russia, representing a significant intelligence gap.
“It always felt, especially sitting in Moscow, of course, that we were in a counterintelligence and collection battle that was an asymmetric fight,” former U.S. Ambassador Michael McCaul said. In one case, Russian spies broke into the United States defense attache’s home and assassinated his dog. In another, a Russian spy broke into one U.S. diplomat’s house and defecated in the middle of his living room carpet.
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