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Were Russians spying on Kansas infrastructure? McCain asks Sessions

Sen. John McCain, right, R-Ariz., with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, listens as Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Sen. John McCain, right, R-Ariz., with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, listens as Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Associated Press

Sen. John McCain asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday about reports of Russians potentially spying on Kansas’ fiber optic communications network in 2016.

During the high-profile congressional hearing about what Sessions knew about Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election results, McCain asked Sessions about a recent story in Politico that identified several Russian diplomats, believed to be spies, who had escaped State Department surveillance. One turned up in the desert and another turned up in Kansas, “lingering where underground fiber-optic cables tend to run.”

“Russian diplomats whose travel the State Department was supposed to track had gone missing,” McCain said. “Some turned up wandering around the desert or driving around Kansas. Reportedly, intelligence sources concluded that after a year of investigation, these movements indicated that Moscow’s espionage ground game had grown stronger and more brazen and that, quietly, the Kremlin has been trying to map the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure.”

Politico reported that intelligence officials believe Russia is mapping the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure to potentially disrupt it. McCain continued to ask Sessions about reports that Russia had developed a weapon to disrupt the U.S. electrical grid, similar to the one it used in Ukraine in 2015.

Sessions responded that, although he had not been as concerned about these issues when he served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, he had become increasingly concerned about them during his short tenure as attorney general.

Oliver Morrison: 316-268-6499, @ORMorrison

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