Somerset's Hal Rogers, the 5th District U.S. Congressman, is now spear-heading an effort to get a handle on Russian interference in U.S. affairs -- including its attempt to influence American politics.
During a congressional hearing Wednesday on U.S. efforts to counter Russian disinformation, Rogers advised leaders of the State Department to take a more comprehensive approach to better lead and coordinate activities in response to Russian meddling.
"During my time chairing this subcommittee, I led several of our members on two trips to all corners of Europe, so we could see first-hand what Russia was up to," Rogers said during the hearing. "At each stop, we were confronted with the Kremlin's malign activity in one form or another. It is pervasive throughout Europe, Eurasia, Central Asia, as well as the Arctic. On the last trip, we visited Lithuania. There, we had extraordinary conversations with several of their legislators and members of civil society, who described to us in detail a sophisticated disinformation campaign that they called Russian 'active measures.'
"We were reminded that efforts by Moscow to discredit the United States and weaken the West are not new," Rogers added. "In fact, these nefarious techniques date back to the former Soviet Union and included tactics such as:
• Written or spoken disinformation;
• Efforts to control media in foreign countries;
• Use of front organizations and other proxies;
• Blackmail, personal and economic; and
• Political influence operations.
"Those examples of Soviet-era tradecraft still resonate with us today," Rogers added. "As our Baltic friends explained, what is new is the transition to digital and online communication and Russia's relentless efforts to sow division by exploiting these new social media platforms."
Rogers pointed out that during the Cold War, the Reagan Administration established the Active Measures Working Group, an interagency body consisting of the old U.S. Information Agency, the CIA, FBI, State Department and several elements of the Department of Defense.
As one study has noted, "the purpose of this group was to respond comprehensively to disinformation, to define it, to create institutions to tackle it and to draw attention to it at the highest level."
"I raise this perspective because the United States and our European friends are the targets of a ruthless adversary in the Russian bear, one bent on suborning our democracies and undermining our historic transatlantic alliance," Rogers said. "Perhaps a similar interagency effort and strategic communications strategy is required today if we are to successfully combat the Kremlin's influence and disinformation campaigns, both here in the United States and abroad. While our Subcommittee focuses on the funding of what must be a broader national strategy, I welcome a discussion on these and related matters.
"Lastly, there are numerous adversaries that require our time and attention when it comes to countering disinformation and malign influence, but this Subcommittee felt it was important to focus on Russia," Rogers added. "The countries and regions facing attacks and other forms of aggression from the Kremlin remain one of our top priorities. We have included funding and policies in our annual appropriations bills, on a bi-partisan basis, to demonstrate this. We want to continue to provide you with the tools and resources you need to ensure the United States is doing everything it can to shore up our allies and partners in combating Russian aggression in all its forms."