Watchdog report: UK government 'badly underestimated' threat of Russian interference

Watchdog report: UK government 'badly underestimated' threat of Russian interference
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The British government "badly underestimated" the threat of Russia's election interference and has been forced to play "catch up" to respond, a parliamentary report found Tuesday.

The Intelligence and Security Committee's report said that Russian interference in the U.K. has become "the new normal," while urging the government to step up efforts aimed at investigating and preventing Russian influence.

"We therefore question whether Government took its eye off the ball because of its focus on counter-terrorism: it was the opinion of the committee that until recently the Government had badly underestimated the response required to the Russian threat — and is still playing catch-up," the report reads.

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"[T]he defense of [the U.K.'s] democratic processes has appeared something of a ‘hot potato’, with no one organisation considering itself to be in the lead, or apparently willing to conduct an assessment of such interference. This must change," the report's authors added in a press release.

In a 20-page response obtained by The Associated Press the British government reportedly denied underestimating the Russian threat, and added that there was no evidence that Russia had interfered in the 2016 Brexit vote, a claim the report had urged be investigated.

“We have seen no evidence of successful interference in the EU Referendum,” the government said, according to the AP.

Russia's election interference has been a pressing issue for Western democracies in recent years, particularly after the U.S. intelligence community determined that Moscow had worked to influence voters participating in the 2016 presidential election.

The Trump administration has faced criticism from Democrats and some Republicans over its response to Russia's election interference. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE has dismissed the prospect that Russia meddles on his behalf on numerous occasions and faced backlash for not confronting Russia's President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNot a pretty picture: Money laundering and America's art market Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' MORE on the issue.