House passes intelligence bill enhancing efforts against Russia

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The House passed an annual intelligence policy authorization bill on Wednesday that includes a provision to increase scrutiny of Russia’s attempts to exert covert influence around the world, after the country was accused of meddling in this year’s U.S. presidential election.

Tucked into the 93-page unclassified portion of the legislation, approved by a vote of 390-30, is a measure establishing an interagency committee to counter Russian meddling in foreign countries that’s often taken the form of media manipulation and spreading disinformation. 

Another provision of the bill limits the travel of Russian diplomatic personnel in the U.S. to a maximum of 25 miles from their official posts unless the FBI certifies to Congress that it didn’t find evidence of wrongdoing by those individuals.

{mosads}The U.S. intelligence community in October formally blamed Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other organizations aligned with Democrats. 

The Kremlin has denied accusations that it tried to influence this year’s U.S. presidential election. 

Democrats argued the hacks were intended to undermine their party and benefit Donald Trump’s campaign, pointing to the GOP nominee and eventual president-elect’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump rejected suggestions that the Kremlin tried to help his campaign.

At the same time, Trump baffled the intelligence community when he questioned whether Russia was truly behind the hacks during one of the presidential debates in October. Trump’s public skepticism came despite reports that he’d received personal intelligence briefings on Russia’s role by U.S. officials.

Independent researchers also found that a Russian propaganda campaign created and spread fake news meant to boost Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Some stories promoting misinformation came from state-funded Russian information services or were spread on social media by Russian sites. 

Earlier Wednesday, Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee urged the Obama administration to declassify information about Russia’s role in the election and release it to the public. 

The legislation approved Wednesday by the House now heads to the Senate, where it’s expected to be taken up in the coming days before both chambers adjourn for the year. 

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