Russia is still spying on the US despite sanctions and frequent headlines about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, according to a top US intelligence official.
William Evanina, the National Counterintelligence Executive, told Reuters that his US intelligence agencies “have not seen a deterrence, or a drop - or an increase,” in Russian spying activity in the last 12 months.
“I can tell you, the FBI does not have less work,” he said.
His words came the same day that Vladimir Putin said 755 people would have to leave their jobs, including many Russian nationals, in a retaliatory act to a new round of US sanctions against the country.
The vote in US congress for sanctions followed revelations that Moscow had carried out a “campaign of influence” on the presidential election, which Russian authorities have denied.
The US has carried out its own espionage and surveillance of Russia and the former Soviet Union.
In terms of sanctions and the expulsion of diplomats, Mr Evanina said the US has more to lose than Russia as it has a “smaller footprint” in Russia than Russia has in the US.
He said his agency is still battling many issues including the hacking of government and industry secrets, federal employees and contractors talking to the press and groups such as WikiLeaks, as well as overseas companies acquiring strategic US industries.
Reuters reported that the US Committee on Foreign Investment has objected to more than nine acquisitions of US companies by foreign buyers in 2017 alone.
Mr Evanina said that he had worked with the private sector to protect their systems from foreign threats.
Former President Barack Obama expelled 35 diplomats last December to punish Russia for allegedly meddling in the election. But Mr Evanina said Russian espionage strategy no longer relies on intelligence officers employed by its spy agencies – it also includes businessmen and other travellers to the US to work as contractors for intelligence services.
He declined to comment on US investigations into alleged Russian interference during the election and whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians. It is an investigation that has spread from the President to his aides, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and members of his close family.
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