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Number of Russian spies in US remains ‘way too big,’ says FBI director

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FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before a House Committee on the Judiciary oversight hearing, Wednesday, July 12, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday the number of Russian spies in the U.S. remains “way too big” despite recent efforts to root them out.

“The Russian traditional counterintelligence threat continues to loom large,” Wray said at an event at the International Spy Museum. 

“The Russian intelligence footprint — and by that, I mean Russian intelligence officers — is still way too big in the United States,” he added. “And it’s something that we’re constantly bumping up against and trying to block and prevent and disrupt in every way we can.”

While Wray emphasized the U.S. has made “very positive, significant strides” on the issue in recent years, he also said they remain mindful of Moscow’s “disproportionately large” footprint in the U.S., and the interests those individuals are advancing.

“If anybody needs a reminder of what Russia’s interests are, you can just look at what’s going on in Ukraine,” he said. “And so, we never lose sight of the fact that these are the same people that are involved in unconscionable activity and aggression in Ukraine.”

He noted Russia is also now using cut-outs, or individuals who act as intermediaries between agents, as part of its intelligence operations. Wray pointed to the case of Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes, a Mexican national who was arrested by U.S. authorities in 2020 for spying on behalf of Moscow.

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