Stephen Lynch asks FBI for a briefing on foreign adversaries exploiting George Floyd protests

Rep. Stephen Lynch on Tuesday asked FBI Director Christopher A. Wray for a classified briefing on whether foreign adversaries are exploiting the George Floyd protests to sow discord in the U.S.

Mr. Lynch, Massachusetts Democrat, requested the briefing for the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security by next Friday.

“I am deeply concerned that foreign adversaries may exploit this critical moment in American history to exacerbate social and cultural differences across the American political spectrum and ultimately threaten our national security,” Mr. Lynch wrote in a letter to Mr. Wray.

Mr. Lynch cited reports that Chinese and Russian-backed media outlets and social media accounts were pushing “divisive messages” piggybacking on top of social media hashtags critical of how authorities have handled the protests.

“As of June 1, 2020, Chinese Foreign Ministry officials, Russian-backed news outlets, and others with ties to Russia and China have tweeted more than 1,200 times about U.S. protests using hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #Minneapolis,” he wrote.

Russia used similar tactics to create disinformation campaigns and further divide the nation during the 2016 presidential election.

Attorney General William P. Barr said earlier this month foreign agents are helping foment the dissent and inflame the violence that has erupted in U.S. cities in the wake of Floyd’s death while in police custody.

“I believe we have evidence that some foreign hackers and groups associated with foreign governments are focused on this particular situation we have here and exacerbate it every way they can,” he told reporters.

Mr. Wray, speaking at the same press conference, said it’s the kind of behavior they’ve seen before.

“It is, unfortunately, not unusual for foreign actors to choose to amplify events in this country to sow divisiveness and discord, particularly through the use of state associated media, which provides a bullhorn to amplify and gin up more controversy than exists,” he said.

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