US intelligence officials briefed the American people on Iranian efforts to spread election disinformation. Evidence suggests the information used was publicly and commercially available information.
FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe held a press conference last night announcing foreign actors, namely Iran and Russia, are actively attempting to interfere with the 2020 election.
- They claimed Iran and Russia have accessed voter information and that Iran used that information to pose as the controversial group Proud Boys to intimidate Democrat voters.
- Ratcliffe said the emails were “designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump.” Senator Chuck Schumer raised an issue with that statement when speaking with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, suggesting it wasn’t about hurting Trump in the election per se, but to “undermine confidence in elections.” NBC News similarly reported the Director of National Intelligence didn’t elaborate further since the emails “were urging Democrats to switch to the Republican Party.”
- Some states make voter information publicly accessible, including emails if included on voter registration forms. Other voter contact information is commercially available.
- The New York Times indicates there is no evidence any votes were changed or vote tallies altered, while also noting Russia has been attempting to penetrate the computer systems of local and state governments.
- Experts say these tactics are new for Iran, and that it marks a fundamental shift in their foreign influence operations. Iran denies the allegations, as does Russia.
- In a bi-partisan statement before last night’s announcement, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Virginia Senator Mark Warner urged Americans to be on guard and careful in “believing or spreading unverified, sensational claims related to votes and voting.”
- The New York Times argues last night’s announcement “plays into President Trump’s hand”, that it gives him fodder for claiming the election was “rigged.”
- Vox emphasized the press conference’s lack of discussion about Russian activity, saying it was an important aspect of the story since there are allegations, disputed by the DNI and FBI, Russia is tied to the Hunter Biden-laptop story.
- The majority of commentary on the right focused anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project, saying they became an unwitting pawn of the Iranians, spreading the “Proud Boys” emails, now linked to Iranian disinformation efforts.
© Dallas Gerber, 2020