Clinton Watts, former FBI special agent turn researcher for the George Washington Center for Cyber and Homeland Security was a key witness in the U.S. Senate’s Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
While speaking with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Watts couldn’t prove that Paul Manafort was involved or orchestrated the Russia campaign but that “the synchronization and taking Russians messages that are put out by progressed outlaws and spending them on campaign stumps or using them as talking points was quick.”
He cited two strange incidents that happened around a fake story about an attack on the U.S. base in Turkey.
“There was a small protest outside the gate, and the works there wasn’t increased security around the base,” Watts said. “The Joint Chiefs of Staff were flying in the next day. This is after the coup if you remember in Turkey. That story was then changed and manipulated into ‘This is a Benghazi-style terrorist attack and is hitting the base and there’s loose nukes out there.’ That comes out from overt outlaws, Sputnik News, RT simultaneously.”
From there, within minutes, Watts said many amplifying accounts popped up, all of which were very pro-Russian. accounts, website that takes those, spin them even further and amplify those stories … the goal is to get it into the top trending stories on Twitter so that mainstream media needs to react to it. the way they do that is hughes hashtags. they use the media to get reaction. The third was Trump to get Trump supporters to see it and fourth was Benghazi.”
Maddow asked if the FBI has the capacity to get to the bottom of what happened because some have suggested the CIA should be the ones to handle the investigation. Watts said he has the full confidence in the FBI but that they need the time and resources to do the work.
The FBI announced this week that its counter-terrorism work would be “severely hindered” under President Donald Trump’s forced budget cuts.
Watch the full exchange below: