In testimony this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bill Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, issued a dire warning. The United States, Priestap told lawmakers, “is under relentless assault by hostile state actors and their proxies” and “our economy, our national security and our way of life are being actively threatened by state actors and their proxies today and every day.” Today’s hearing was about enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a federal statute that requires agents of foreign actors to disclose, via public filings, their relationship with the foreign actor and the financial relationship between them. It’s like a lobbying disclosure form for people who are advocating on behalf of foreign individuals or entities. Although Priestap has previously warned the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russia’s capabilities for interfering in future elections, today’s testimony was about far more extensive efforts by foreign actors to undermine every facet of public life — including upcoming elections.
The danger isn’t limited to spies’ cloak-and-dagger activities. Foreign powers, Priestap said, “use people from across their governments and from all walks of life in pursuit of their desire to gain strategic advantage over the United States in whatever ways they can,” he said. Too few people, he went on, understand “the scope and scale of the counterintelligence threat,” which is “growing, both in volume and complexity.”
Despite the urgency of Priestap’s admonition about foreign adversaries, Republican members of the Judiciary Committee had another enemy they wanted to discuss: Hillary Clinton.