Iran and Russia Have Attempted to Influence US Election, Officials Say

October 22, 2020by Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times
The. J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — Iran and Russia have obtained voter registration information and are sending disinformation to Americans ahead of Election Day, the leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI warned Wednesday night.

The announcement was made during a brief and hastily announced news conference, and it was another reminder of the shadow game that surrounds this year’s presidential campaign. Intelligence officials, federal law enforcement and social media companies have been playing cat-and-mouse with foreign governments that want to tilt the political playing field in their interest or simply create more division in an already hotly partisan atmosphere.

John Ratcliffe, the national intelligence director, said Iran and Russia want to “cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy.”

“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” he added.

Ratcliffe sought to assure Americans that their vote would be counted accurately.

“Our election systems are resilient, and you can be confident that your vote is secure,” he said.

Voter registration information is often publicly or commercially available, so there’s no indication that hacking was involved in the operations mentioned by U.S. officials.

Ratcliffe provided few details on the Iranian operation, but his comments appeared to refer to threatening emails sent to Democratic voters. The messages were purportedly from the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, but the organization has denied responsibility, and The Washington Post reported that Tehran was behind the emails.

“This incident marks a fundamental shift in our understanding of Iran’s willingness to interfere in the democratic process,” said John Hultquist, senior director of intelligence analysis at FireEye, a cybersecurity firm. “While many of their operations have been focused on promoting propaganda in pursuit of Iran’s interests, this incident is clearly aimed at undermining voter confidence.”

Ratcliffe said Iran wanted to “damage President Trump” with the spoofed emails, although he did not explain how attempting to intimidate Democratic voters would accomplish that. Trump has faced criticism for his reluctance to denounce the Proud Boys at his first debate with former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee.

U.S. intelligence officials previously concluded that Iran “seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections.”

” Tehran’s motivation to conduct such activities is, in part, driven by a perception that President Trump’s reelection would result in a continuation of U.S. pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change,” a report by the director of national intelligence said.

Ratcliffe provided even less information on Russia’s operation, but he said it has not taken similar steps to utilize the voter registration information it obtained.

Moscow is generally believed to have the most active election meddling effort, and intelligence officials say it is spreading disinformation to undermine Biden.

Questions about Russian interference escalated in recent days when the New York Post began reporting on emails that were purportedly sent by Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son. The Post received the emails from Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer.

Although Giuliani said he obtained the emails from a laptop abandoned at a Delaware computer shop, he has previously traveled to Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Biden family, including a meeting with an alleged Russian agent.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said at Wednesday’s news conference that “we are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections.”

“You should be confident that your vote counts,” he added. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”

The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee also urged Americans to be cautious about unconfirmed information that might be circulated by malign actors.

“As we enter the last weeks before the election, we urge every American — including members of the media — to be cautious about believing or spreading unverified, sensational claims related to votes and voting,” Sens. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., and Mark R. Warner, D- Va., the chair and vice chairman of the committee, respectively, wrote in a statement.

___

(c)2020 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

2020 Elections

Federal Judge Orders Trump Administration to Fully Reinstate DACA Program
Immigration
Federal Judge Orders Trump Administration to Fully Reinstate DACA Program
December 5, 2020
by Dan McCue

BROOKLYN, N.Y. - The Trump administration must allow all eligible immigrants to file new applications for protection under the DACA program, and find a way to contact individuals who are eligible for the protection to notify them of the change, a federal judge ruled Friday evening.... Read More

Congress Close to Breakthrough on Economic Stimulus Proposal
Congress
Congress Close to Breakthrough on Economic Stimulus Proposal
December 5, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved a $1.4 trillion relief package closer to approval Friday by joining pandemic assistance and economic stimulus measures into a single bill headed toward a vote in Congress. Negotiations dragged on for months between Republicans and Democrats before the election.... Read More

Bill to Decriminalize Cannabis on Federal Level Gets Bipartisan Support
Congress
Bill to Decriminalize Cannabis on Federal Level Gets Bipartisan Support
December 4, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The House passed legislation that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level -- the first time either chamber of Congress has voted on such a measure. And significantly, the measure received bipartisan support. When the figurative smoke cleared, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement... Read More

Meeks, Scott Make History As First African-Americans to Hold Respective Chairs
Congress
Meeks, Scott Make History As First African-Americans to Hold Respective Chairs
December 4, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - House Democrats made history on Thursday when the caucus voted to make Reps. Gregory Meeks, of New York, and David Scott, of Georgia, the first African-Americans to chair, respectively, the chamber's Foreign Affairs and Agriculture Committees. Meeks, who was the third-ranking member of the... Read More

Experts Lend Advice on COVID Relief Policy for Biden Administration, New Congress
Economy
Experts Lend Advice on COVID Relief Policy for Biden Administration, New Congress
December 4, 2020
by Reece Nations

In a virtual roundtable event co-hosted Tuesday by the Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, economists discussed what economic policies should be prioritized by the in-coming Biden Administration and Congress.  The panelists who participated in the event, presented... Read More

Drug Policy Analysts Tell Congress New Strategy Needed Against Cartels
Law Enforcement
Drug Policy Analysts Tell Congress New Strategy Needed Against Cartels
December 4, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- Drug policy analysts told a congressional committee Thursday that the U.S. government has largely failed to stop illegal drug smuggling because of an unfocused strategy against the cartels. Instead, they recommended flexibility that seeks solutions based on local conditions. In one example analysts mentioned... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top