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US security leaders warn about Russian, Iranian interference in 2020 polls

Trump Keep America Great 2020 in Orlando (Donald J. Trump/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Top U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have joined together to warn Americans about attempts by Russia, Iran, and other foreign “adversaries” to interfere with next year’s presidential election.

“Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment, and affect government policies,” the leaders of President Donald Trump’s administration on security matters said in a joint statement released on November 5.

“Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions,” they added.

U.S. officials have in the past warned that Russia, Iran, and other countries could attempt to influence the result of the November 2020 presidential vote.

Moscow and Tehran have repeatedly denied the allegations.

Russia has also rejected accusations it had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The latest statement was released by Attorney General Bill Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, FBI Director Christopher Wray, U.S. Cyber Command commander and National Security Agency Director General Paul Nakasone, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs.

They said interference in next year’s election could be accomplished through “social media campaigns, directing disinformation operations, or conducting disruptive or destructive cyberattacks on state and local infrastructure.”

The statement added that at this point, there was “no evidence of a compromise or disruption to election infrastructure that would enable adversaries to prevent voting, change vote counts, or disrupt the ability to tally votes.”

To be prepared, there is now an “unprecedented level of coordination” between the U.S. government and officials in all 50 states, as well as people in the private sector to “identify threats, broadly share information, and protect the democratic process,” it said.

The statement urged Americans to “go to trusted sources for election information, such as their state and local election officials” and to “report any suspicious activity” to the authorities.

The heads of the national security agencies offered a similar warning ahead of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

After the vote, then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign powers sought to influence voters, but there were no signs that the election results were compromised by the attempts.

In January 2017, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

In his report released in April, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller said there was a “sweeping and systematic” effort by Russia to sway the vote, utilizing e-mails hacked from Democratic Party officials and a social media campaign to spread disinformation.

The Senate Intelligence Committee in July this year concluded that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in the 2016 election.