The Obama administration reportedly ordered the FBI to monitor "fake news," presumably from Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign and help the Trump campaign, on Election Day last year, according to a new report.
CNN reported Friday that "dozens" of FBI agents and intelligence analysts gathered in a command center in the FBI's Washington D.C., headquarters on Election Day to monitor the cyberspace, including social media, for "fake news" about Clinton's campaign that was thought to be part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
That included analysts monitoring cyber threats, after months of mounting Russian intrusions targeting every part of the US political system, from political parties to policy think-tanks to state election systems.
FBI analysts had identified social media user accounts behind stories, some based overseas, and the suspicion was that at least some were part of a Russian disinformation campaign, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
According to the report, teams at the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence held conference calls with a team in the White House's "Situation Room" every three hours to provide updates on any incident.
The monitoring, CNN reports, made the FBI uncomfortable, given the First Amendment's protections on free speech — even speech that may be false.
"We were right on the edge of Constitutional legality," a source told CNN. "We were monitoring news."
Some of the stories that raised eyebrows for FBI agents were fake news stories about Clinton's health, according to a CNN reporter who spoke on Jake Tapper's show Friday. In the end, CNN reports there were only minor hiccups in "far-flung parts of the country."
Exclusive: FBI tracked 'fake news' believed to be from Russia on Election Day https://t.co/ChZWWBlNFZ— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) August 4, 2017
Russia was a big topic of discussion in the months leading up to the election and ever since over allegations Russian hackers were leading a disinformation campaign against Clinton in order to boost Trump to the White House.
Going into Election Day, there was a fear that hackers would tamper with voting machines, though that never happened. And despite a possible disinformation campaign against Clinton, it's not clear if Russian interference altered the outcome of the election in any way.
Currently, FBI special counsel Robert Mueller is leading the Department of Justice's investigation into Russian interference, a probe that includes an investigation into Trump's campaign, which has been accused of having inappropriate contacts with Russian operatives.