FBI using Facebook ads to gather Russian intelligence: report

FBI using Facebook ads to gather Russian intelligence: report
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The FBI is reportedly using Facebook ads to gather intelligence on Russia, specifically targeting those who may be or know Russian spies. 

The FBI is running ads in the Washington, D.C., area, CNN reported on Wednesday, that direct to the FBI field office's website that describes its counterintelligence team and encourages visitors to meet "in person."

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Alan Kohler Jr., the special agent in charge of the Washington field office's counterintelligence division, said in a statement that the Bureau cannot comment on the specific ads "except to note that Russia has a large number of intelligence officers based in Russian diplomatic facilities around the world."

A source familiar with the advertising project confirmed to CNN that the ads have run throughout the summer.

"The FBI will use all legal means available to locate individuals with information that can help protect the United States from threats to our national security," Kohler said in a statement. "Russia has long been a counterintelligence threat to the U.S. and election interference is certainly an important concern, but it’s not the only one. The FBI will continue to adapt our investigative and outreach techniques to counter the threat."

One of the three ads found by CNN depicts a chess set with Russian text that translates to, "Isn't it time for you to make your move?"

A different one shows a young woman at graduation with her family, with text reading "For your future, for the future of your family."

The third ad has a drawing of a man on a bridge, and the text saying, "Time to draw bridges."

"The thing with Russian spies is 99 percent of them are walk-ins, and these people make the decision on their own completely," said Bob Baer, a former CIA agent who's now a CNN analyst.

"Putting it out there and getting in this milieu and seeding the idea of volunteering for the FBI is a good idea," he added.

Russia's own use of Facebook has been under scrutiny since the 2016 election, when Moscow used the social media platform as part of its disinformation and hacking-and-leaking campaign.

--Updated at 2:39 p.m.