By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - Russia is likely to increase its attempts to influence the American electoral process after it worked to influence the 2016 presidential election, U.S. intelligence agencies said Tuesday.
"There should be no doubt that Russia perceives that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations," Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee during a hearing on the top national security threats to the U.S.
Coats' sentiments were universally shared among the chiefs of America's intelligence agencies -- including the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Their testimony comes as the intelligence community releases its new worldwide threats assessment, which anticipates "Russia will conduct bolder and more disruptive cyber operations during the next year, most likely using new capabilities" to target the U.S., its allies, NATO and Ukraine.
In particular, the agencies said Russia will increase its "influence operations", which it said will be a "significant threat to US interests", because the operations do not require a major financial investment, they are low-risk, and are easily deniable.
"Russian intelligence services will continue their efforts to disseminate false information via Russian state-controlled media and covert online personas about US activities to encourage anti-US political views," the report said.
"We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States," it added.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Moscow sought to influence the 2016 presidential campaign in favor of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Multiple congressional and criminal investigations are ongoing into the allegations, including one being carried out under Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is also seeking to determine whether the Trump campaign colluded with the effort.
Trump has steadfastly denied any collusion took place.