The FBI has turned to social media to help it ramp up its Russian recruitment and intelligence gathering as the war in Ukraine continues to rage with no end in sight. It’s a move receiving mixed reviews from Russia experts.
In a video posted to Facebook and Twitter, scenes from the U.S. capital and the Russian embassy are displayed as a voice speaking in Russian tells the listener that the FBI can change their future if they can provide the U.S. with intelligence.
The narrator says the FBI is looking for spies, expats and anyone with information on countering the Kremlin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with the heads of delegations to the 18th meeting of the Conference of Heads of Security and Intelligence Agencies of the Commonwealth of Independent States members via videoconference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
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“Do you want to change your future?” Alan Kohler from the FBI’s counterintelligence division questions while speaking in English directly to the camera. “The FBI values you. The FBI can help you, but only you have the power to take the first step.”
The FBI appears to have launched its social media program in February in an attempt to encourage Russians to turn away from the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression after more than a year of war in Ukraine and heightened geopolitical tensions with the West.
Former CIA Moscow station chief Dan Hoffman told Fox News that the social media message was “sharp” and “smart,” adding that it may “help the FBI and the country prevail against that Russian aggression.”
But former Defense Intelligence Agency intel officer for Russian Doctrine & Strategy Rebekah Koffler – who is also a native Russian speaker – told Fox News Digital that the video itself was flawed and said the narrator’s commentary did not always make sense, which she argued “undermines the FBI’s credibility.”
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray speaks to the media during a news conference at FBI Headquarters, on June 14, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark WIlson/Getty Images)
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Koffler also questioned how the FBI will be able to devote the resources it will need to properly vet all the callers it will now likely receive.
“The FBI is operationalizing this new method for several reasons. First, it is extremely difficult to recruit Russian assets,” she explained. “Russia is a super hard environment, because its counterintelligence services are one of the most effective and brutal in the world.
“The FBI is reacting to the modern times, when young people are constantly on social media. It’s trying to cast a wide net and get a bigger bang for the buck, attracting more potential candidates to spy for the U.S.,” Koffler continued.
But the former DIA intelligence officer’s faith in the government in effectively employing such a program was low.
“I wish them luck, but my confidence level in this program being successful is almost zero,” Koffler added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin watches an air parade on Victory Day, which marks the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2020. (Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS )
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The FBI’s Washington field office has encouraged anyone who has confidential information related to Russian intelligence or defense matters to come forward.
The Bureau’s intelligence division has also sought to ensure those who are considering coming forward that they will not only be listened to but also assisted to ensure their safety and confidentiality.