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Intelligence Leaders Testify About Global Threats In Senate Hearing

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Updated at 10:19 a.m. ET

Russian influence operations in the United States will continue through this year's midterm elections and beyond, the nation's top spy warned Congress on Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate intelligence committee that Moscow viewed its attack on the 2016 election as decidedly worthwhile given the chaos it has sown as compared to its relatively low cost.

That's why such interference is likely to continue, he said.

The top intelligence officials in America are on Capitol Hill Tuesday as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has convened its annual hearing on "worldwide threats."

The hearing takes place every year, but this year's installment takes place amid an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into whether President Trump's campaign might have conspired with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election. It also follows reports about the losses of U.S. agents overseas, the theft of the NSA's secret spying software and other major setbacks in the intelligence business.

More broadly, the world itself is also getting more dangerous.

"The risk of inter-state conflict is higher than any time since the Cold War," Coats told senators in his opening statement.

Along with Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers are also answering questions from lawmakers, as well as the heads of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Robert Cardillo.

Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and vice chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., used their opening statements to focus on the peril of cyberattacks.

"Cyber is clearly the most challenging in threat vector this country faces," Burr said. "It's also the most concerning, given how many aspects of our daily lives in the United States can be disrupted by a well-planned, well-executed cyberattack."

Warner, almost immediately, brought up Russia.

"We've had more than a year to get our act together and address the threat posed by Russia and implement a strategy to deter further attacks," Warner said. "But I believe we still don't have a comprehensive plan."

He pointed to remarks by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week in which Tillerson said Russians were already interfering in the 2018 midterms.

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