WASHINGTON: The US government should have anticipated Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, but the FBI was nevertheless working to make sure Moscow "pays" for its actions, the bureau chief said.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Acting Director Andrew McCabe on Wednesday said Moscow's efforts were surprising "in some ways," but that the intelligence community had enough information to have foreseen extensive efforts by Russian-government linked hackers and operatives to influence the election, reports CNN.
"The fact is, the Russians have been targeting us with everything they have over the last 50 years," McCabe said.
"We sort of should have seen this coming." McCabe made the remarks while speaking at the Cambridge Cyber Summit at The Aspen Institute here.
McCabe's admission follows repeated statements from the intelligence community reaffirming the assessment a year ago that the Russian government was involved in various attempts to influence the election, including by releasing damaging emails about Democrats and Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Russian meddling is the subject of a special counsel investigation by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, which McCabe said the FBI was assisting where it can, and investigations in the House and Senate, CNN reported.
Without getting into specifics about what activities the FBI sees currently, McCabe implied that the meddling has not stopped.
"The experience in the 2016 elections allowed us to diagnose the problem... Have we cured it yet? Absolutely not."
McCabe also spoke of the dangers of public distrust, saying that was exactly what Russia and others were hoping to erode.
"When we are tearing ourselves apart and torn from one side to the next and in a state of unrest, physically and emotionally, our adversaries are in a better place and that is where they seek to push us.
"The difference is now they've got the platform... So forget security professionals, how do we process this as Americans?"