“No doubt” Russians are behind latest Facebook meddling, Morell says

Facebook said it is cracking down on a coordinated campaign designed to interfere with the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. The social media giant said the company removed 32 pages and apparently fake accounts that stoked emotions over divisive issues, including ones that duped people to organizing a protest in Washington, D.C., and encouraged Americans to turn on each other.

Facebook said it does not have “firm evidence” of who’s behind the effort, but according to Michael Morell, former acting and deputy director of the CIA and CBS News senior national security contributor, there is “no doubt that the Russians are behinds the effort.”

Facebook said it found similarities and connections to the activities of a Russian group, Internet Research Agency, which has been tied to meddling in the 2016 election.

“I think Facebook doesn’t want to be the organization that does the attribution. I think Facebook rightfully believes that the government should do that,” Morell said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.” “But the similarities in patterns here, and some of the techniques, the fact that one of the administrators in these new accounts was an administrator on the 2016 accounts, I think, is all the evidence we need to say it’s the Russians. So very confident in that judgment.”

Morell said it’s also clear “the Russians learned from what they did in 2016,” and took additional steps this time to cover their tracks.

“So changing the internet protocols to make it look like they’re not coming from Russia, changing the way that they paid for some of these ads. In 2016, they used rubles. Now they’re using other currencies. So the Russians are going to greater efforts to hide what they’re doing,” Morell said.

Morell is concerned the U.S. isn’t doing enough to stop the Russians from meddling.

“We have not deterred Vladimir Putin. What’s absolutely clear is that he continues to interfere in our democracy and he’s doing it without cost. I think we need to – the Senate needs to, the president needs to – significantly enhance the sanctions and raise the pain on Putin so that he thinks twice about what he’s doing,” Morell said.

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at the DHS National Cybersecurity Summit that she believes “cyber threats collectively now exceed the danger of physical attacks against us.”

Similarly, Morell said cyberattacks are “one of the most significant threats” the nation faces – “both people getting in networks to steal information, to possibly do damage to information, and to use those networks to spread misinformation and political influence.”

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