Russia's 2016 Election Meddling Was a 'Well-Choreographed Military Operation,' Former FBI Counterintelligence Expert Says

A former FBI expert in counterintelligence and cyberwarfare has warned that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election was not a one-off, and that Moscow's dedicated network of operatives never stopped their malign activities after President Donald Trump's victory.

Robert Anderson worked for the FBI for 21 years, rising to oversee the bureau's efforts to identify, track and disrupt foreign intelligence and cyberwarfare efforts—including those originating from Russia.

In a 60 Minutes interview broadcast Sunday, Anderson told CBS News' Bill Whitaker that Russia's cyberwarfare arm remains a significant threat to the American political system.

"The Russians never left," Anderson said. "I can guarantee you in 2016 after this all hit the news, they never left. They didn't stop doing what they're doing."

Asked by Whitaker if 2016 could have been "a one-time thing," Anderson bluntly replied, "No way. Russia doesn't do it that way."

American intelligence agencies, Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller have all concluded that Russia conducted a systematic campaign to influence the 2016 presidential elections.

As part of this effort, operatives working for Russia's GRU military intelligence agency broke into Democratic Party computers remotely from Moscow, stealing election plans, internal polling and voter targeting data.

"The GRU is military intelligence," Anderson explained. "So when we look at the attacks that happened during our presidential races in 2016 you had military organizations inside of Russia attacking our infrastructure."

He noted that those responsible—now detailed on the FBI's most wanted list—are driven professionals working with the blessing of some of the most powerful people in Russia.

"This was a well-choreographed military operation with units that not only were set up specifically to hack in to obtain information, but other units that were used for psychological warfare were weaponizing that," Anderson told Whitaker. "This is not an operation that was just put together haphazardly."

Intelligence officials, lawmakers and cyber experts have all warned that Russian meddling—as well as interference from other nations—remains a threat as the U.S. gears up for the 2020 presidential election.

The Trump administration and GOP have come under fire for repeatedly blocking reforms and funding that advocates claim would fortify the U.S. system against malign outside influence.

The president has also regularly suggested that Russia was not to blame for the DNC attack, blaming a range of supposed culprits from China to Ukraine. Back in 2016, Trump even suggested the DNC hack could have been the work of "somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."

Robert Anderson, Russia, FBI, 2016 election, meddling
In this file photo, Robert Anderson testifies during a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee June 12, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images/Getty
Russia's 2016 Election Meddling Was a 'Well-Choreographed Military Operation,' Former FBI Counterintelligence Expert Says | Politics