Enlarge /. FBI Director Chrisopher Wray speaks at a news conference in Washington, DC on October 7th.
We now have less than two weeks to go to the November 3rd presidential election, and basically everything, as many expected, hits the fan at once. Now intelligence officials and lawmakers are all but begging Americans to be less gullible with what they see and hear online, amid new allegations that Iranian actors have emailed individual voter intimidation efforts.
National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray joined forces at a hastily announced news conference Wednesday night to warn that foreign actors "have taken specific measures to disseminate public opinion related to ours." Influencing elections ". According to Ratcliffe, Iranian and Russian actors had "received some voter registration information" separately and used it "to convey false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, wreak havoc and undermine their confidence in American democracy ".
Ratcliffe was referring to an email campaign that began earlier this week when some voters in Florida, Arizona, and Alaska received threatening messages.
"Vote for Trump … or we will follow suit," read the emails. "Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know that you received our message and that you will keep it. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you. Good luck."
The emails are said to have come from the Proud Boys, a well-known right-wing extremist group based in the United States that has become increasingly active since it was founded in 2016 and that President Donald Trump has tacitly supported. However, the Proud Boys reportedly denied involvement, and Vice Motherboard reported Tuesday that the messages came from a server in Estonia and were likely using a fake email address.
Some voters also received videos with the Proud Boys branding showing how someone allegedly could use the recipient's personal information to commit election fraud. Motherboard released an edited, labeled copy of the video today to demonstrate what a disinformation campaign can look like.
Ratcliffe said Wednesday that Iran was behind the fake emails and videos he claimed were "designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and harm President Trump".
"We will not tolerate outside interference in our elections or any criminal activity that compromises the sanctity of your voice or undermines public confidence in the election results," Wray added at the press conference.
Iran denied any involvement. "Unlike the US, Iran does not interfere in the elections of other countries," Alireza Miryousefi, a spokeswoman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, told NBC News late Wednesday. "The world has seen the US’s desperate public attempts to question the outcome of its own high-level elections. These allegations are just another scenario designed to undermine voter confidence in the security of the US election, and they are absurd. "
Easy to get messy data
Neither Wray nor Ratcliffe provided evidence of why intelligence officials believe Iranian actors are the source of the emails. However, some independent researchers, as well as other government officials, support the claim.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) And Mark Warner (D-Va.), The chairman and the deputy chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a joint statement today confirming Iran's involvement.
"It is clear that Iran is now actively trying to sow dissent and divide us, similar to what Russia did in 2016 and is still doing today," the senators said. "We reaffirm the need for the American people and the media to be skeptical of sensational, short-term claims about electoral infrastructure. State, local, and federal officials, as well as social media and technology partners, should take pride in joint efforts in the Iranian and Russian efforts to adjust. "