Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, joined with FBI Director Chris Wray, came forward Wednesday afternoon during a joint and brief news conference where they detailed efforts by foreign powers to interfere in the election.
Ratcliffe announced that both Iran and Russia have independently obtained large amounts of voter data, specifically those in swing states, and have detailed attempts to maliciously influence voter choices.
“Iran and Russia have taken specific actions to influence public opinion relating to our elections,” Ratcliffe told reporters. “Some voter registration information have been obtained by Iran, and separately by Russia.”
The Intelligence Community has identified Iran as the main culprit behind a recent round of spoofing emails sent to Democratic voters engineered to intimidate them. The IC has “seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump.” Ratcliffe added, Iran is using these emails to “communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine your confidence in our democracy.”
According to Politico, Iran sent emails “threatening Americans [in Florida and Alaska] with retribution if they do not vote to reelect President Donald Trump.”
The emails claimed to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group, and demanded recipients to both change their party registration and vote for Trump. “We are in possession of all your information,” the email read. “You are currently registered as a Democrat, and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure. You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you. Good luck.” The sender also claims to have access to the “entire voting infrastructure” and will know how the recipient votes.
Iran was attempting to paint the President and his supporters in a bad light, implying he and his ‘violent’ base are attempting to threaten voters. Back in August, a similar report came out claiming Iran and China were attempting to interfere in the election in support of Joe Biden where Russia was doing so to help Trump win reelection. There’s no evidence either campaign has any connection to these actions.
The Proud Boys denied all allegations of sending the malicious emails. The group, which has come under fire in recent months, describe themselves as “Western Chauvinists,” and frequently engages in political provocation. The SPLC designated them a white nationalist hate group, but the organization has gone on record denouncing all forms of racism.
Iran has also been distributing a fake video detailing ways in which foreign actors are able to submit fraudulent ballots using publically available voter data.
The two-minute video plays over an instrumental of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” The video opens with footage of President Trump during a previous press briefing, in which he says, “I think that mail in voting is a terrible thing.” The video then immediately cuts to a logo with the Proud Boys name. The video shows a screen recording of an alleged hacker scrolling through what they present as voter data. They do this in part with a tool called sqlmap, an established tool for taking advantage of vulnerabilities in websites, often to extract data. The alleged hacker then uses some of the information contained in the databases to access the website of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, and then prints out a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots (FWAB) as a PDF document.
At the end of the video, the person controlling the computer shows that they have several folders labeled with the name of American states, and shows files that are supposedly mail-in ballots PDFs they downloaded. It’s impossible from the video to know whether these files actually contain ballots, and whether the folders all contain files or not.Vice.com
Ratcliffe told viewers “we’re on top of this;” they spotted the attacks quicky and were able to promptly investigate and relay the truth to victims. In a warning Iran and any other “enemy of freedom,” Ratcliffe promised the administration will “Impose costs and consequences on any adversary that attempts to interfere in our democratic process.”
“Although we have not seen the same from Russia,” Ratcliffe added, “we are aware that they have obtained some voter information just as they did in 2016.” The DNI director was referring to Russia’s attempts to sow division by posting and sharing pro-Trump memes on Facebook during the 2016 election.
Iran immediately denied any allegations of wrongdoing. “Unlike the U.S., Iran does not interfere in other country’s elections,” tweeted Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations. He added, “The world has been witnessing U.S.’ own desperate public attempts to question the outcome of its own elections at the highest level.”
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