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Probe sought into whether foreign groups fueling rise in anti-Semitism

Reps. Thomas Suozzi, left, and Peter King, in

Reps. Thomas Suozzi, left, and Peter King, in Farmingdale on Jan. 7, 2019, are among U.S. House members calling for a probe into whether foreign adversaries are behind social media campaigns possibly fueling the recent rise in anti-Semitism. Credit: Barry Sloan

Five U.S. House members from Nassau, Suffolk and Queens are calling on national security officials to launch a probe into whether foreign adversaries are behind social media campaigns possibly fueling the recent rise in anti-Semitism and hate crimes in the region.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) sent a letter on Thursday to the top-ranking national security officials at the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense. 

"We have proven evidence from the intelligence community that our foreign adversaries have used social media and disinformation campaigns to sow civil unrest. We are all concerned that there may be efforts going on right now to foment hate and further civil unrest. Instead of waiting until 2021 and point fingers about who did what, let's uncover efforts like this now and hold them accountable," Suozzi said. "This is not about the Democrats and Republicans. This is not about the president or Congress. This about our foreign adversaries."

The request to investigate comes after a mass stabbing inside a rabbi's home during a Dec. 28 Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, Rockland County; a separate shooting inside a kosher deli in Jersey City, New Jersey that killed six people on Dec. 10; and at least eight other anti-Semitic incidents reported in the New York City metropolitan area last month.

The letter notes that in February 2018, the Justice Department charged 13 Russians and three companies with using fraudulent social media accounts, online political advertisements and other tools to subvert the 2016 presidential election. 

"Furthermore, the indictment states that these same nefarious actors paid for advertisements on social media platforms and other places that specifically sought to divide Americans based on race, religion, and other factors," the letter said. 

King, a member of the Homeland Security Committee and ranking member of the subcommittee on emergency preparedness, said he signed on to the letter with Democrats because he believed it was an important bipartisan measure. He said he believes it could be people in foreign countries seeking to divide Americans. 

"There is no easy answer on this. This anti-Semitism now seems to be rising from nowhere. It seems to have just sprung up and seems like a multipronged attack on Jewish people," King said. "I think this is among the many things we need to do to find out what is causing the anti-Semitism and how much of this is coming from outside the country or inside the country." 

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