Iran is conducting a coordinated email campaign to intimidate voters and sow social unrest in America.
U.S. intelligence officials say the Iranian government is responsible for a series of emails sent to Democratic voters in pivotal battleground states like Pennsylvania and Florida. Sources close to the matter say the emails were designed to appear as if they were sent by the far-right group the Proud Boys.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe revealed the connection in an announcement at FBI headquarters on Wednesday night. Ratcliffe says both Russia and Iran are undertaking campaigns to subvert public opinion. The two countries allegedly aim to influence the outcome of the presidential election. In addition to the forged emails, Iran is also circulating a video online. It promoted the idea that fraudulent ballots are being cast from abroad. “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” Ratcliffe said.
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The incidents indicate that both Iran and Russia have obtained U.S. voter registration information. However, Ratcliffe didn’t detail how the records may have been obtained or which country had them. However, some states make some voter information, including name and party affiliation, publicly available.
Iran has responded to Ratcliffe’s claims with a staunch denial. “Iran has no interest in interfering in the U.S. election and no preference for the outcome,” said Alireza Miryousefi, Iran’s spokesman to the United Nations.
The fake Proud Boys emails seem to be part of a coordinated effort to hurt President Trump’s reelection chances, Ratcliffe said. An unnamed U.S. intelligence official quoted in the Wall Street Journal expressed similar sentiments. The source told the journal the campaign aimed to hurting President Trump. It also aims to undermine public confidence in the election process.
Senate Reacts to the Campaign
— Mark Cavitt (@MarkCavitt) October 22, 2020
The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA), released a statement on the election interference efforts from foreign governments shortly before Ratcliffe’s press conference.
“Our adversaries abroad seek to sow chaos and undermine voters’ belief in our democratic institutions, including the election systems and infrastructure that we rely on to record and properly report expressions of the voters’ will,“ the Senators warned. “They may seek to target those systems, or simply leave the impression that they have altered or manipulated those systems, in order to undermine their credibility and our confidence in them.”
Reports began to surface earlier this week that voters were receiving threatening messages from the Proud Boys. However, the group denied involvement during subsequent media interviews and through their social media feeds.
“You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure,” said the fake Proud Boys emails. “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.”
Lawmakers on Administration’s Efforts
Many lawmakers applauded the public disclosure and the Trump administration’s transparent handling of foreign election interference efforts. One member of the Senate intelligence committee, Sen. Angus King (I-MA), said these reports should be standard practice. “Updates like these should be as regular as events and developments warrant, daily even, to give as much information as is possible to the American people, so long as we do not compromise sources and methods and our professionals out in the field,” Mr. King said.
One U.S. security official said on Wednesday the open approach is working. “We found out about this [the Iran email campaign] 24 hours ago and went from that to public attribution in record speed.”
If you suspect you’re being targeted by an election interference campaign, notify the FBI as soon as possible.