2018 mid-term elections under attack by Russia: US spy chief

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WASHINGTON: Leaders of US intelligence agencies warned on Tuesday that Russia will try to interfere in this year's US mid-term elections by using social media to spread propaganda and misleading reports, much as it did in the 2016 campaign.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a congressional committee that Russia and other foreign entities were likely to attack US and European elections this year and beyond, adding that Moscow believes similar efforts successfully undermined US democracy two years ago.

He said: "There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US mid-term elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations."

Mr Coats, a former senator appointed by President Donald Trump as Washington's top intelligence official, said he had already seen evidence that Russia was targeting US elections in November, when Republican control of the House of Representatives and Senate are at stake, plus a host of positions in state governments.

"Frankly, the United States is under attack," Mr Coats said at the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual hearing on worldwide threats.

His assessment runs counter to statements from Mr Trump, who has cast doubt on the notion of Russian meddling.

US spy agencies concluded more than a year ago that Russia used hacking and propaganda to tilt the 2016 election in favour of Mr Trump. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied this. - REUTERS