CIA operative-turned-politician: 'Russia is not our ally, they are our adversary.'

House Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) on Capitol Hill on October 21, 2015Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Capitol Hill, and inside the secretive US government committees where politicians are currently probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Republican Congressman Will Hurd is in a unique position to speak with authority on the subject.

For nearly a decade he served as an undercover operative for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Now, after a brief period with cybersecurity company FusionX, Hurd sits on groups responsible for national security, intelligence and information technology.

So when it comes to suspected Russian influence operations on US soil, he has proper insight.

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"[Russia has] been perfecting their ability to use asymmetrical warfare and their ability to use disinformation in Eastern Europe for decades," he told The Cipher Brief in an interview, published 5 October.

"We, the US, do not have a counter-covert influence strategy," he added. To Hurd, and one suspects a great number of other American polticians, Russia is not described as an ally, but "an adversary."

"When Russia's GRU briefs Grizzly Step - and that's how the intelligence community refers to Russia's attempt to manipulate our elections - it's going to go down as the greatest covert action campaign in the history of mother Russia," Hurd explained.

"It drove a wedge, whether real or perceived, between the White House, the intelligence community, and the American people."

US intelligence believes that at least two Moscow-linked hacking groups targeted American institutions, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC), in order to help spread misinformation and propaganda. It said state news outlets were also involved.

Multiple US committees are currently investigating if there was collusion between mysterious Russian forces and campaigners for Donald Trump.

One intelligence report, from January 2017, asserted that "Putin and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavourably to him."

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For Hurd, who previously worked in the dark alleyways of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the spread of propaganda is an obstacle which is increasingly difficult to overcome.

"Having spent some time in Eastern Europe, I'm creating an axiom that says, the closer you are to Russia, the less likely you are to believe their nonsense," he said.

"But the converse of this rule is true as well. The farther away you are from Russia, the more susceptible you are to their messaging or their payload.

"How do we identify this fake information? How do we identify these disinformation efforts and make sure we're inculcating our communities against it? That's a hard problem to solve, and it's going to take all hands on deck."

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