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Locals react after FBI says Iran, Russia behind election misinformation campaign

Posted at 10:16 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 23:16:13-04

The FBI held an unforeseen news conference on Wednesday to say that Iran and Russia have been leading a misinformation campaign ahead of this year’s election.

Although the sudden nature of Wednesday’s news conference made the announcement seem urgent, intelligence community officials have been warning of interference by Iran, China and Russia for months.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said that the countries obtained voter registration information, and then used that data to direct misinformation toward voters. Ratcliffe, along with FBI Director Christopher Wray, would not take any questions.

TMJ4 News spoke with several voters Wednesday evening, who say they were not surprised to hear foreign counties were interfering in U.S. elections again.

"If you're denying it from four years ago, I'm not buying it," said one man.

"Doesn't surprise me. Doesn't concern me at all. I think we have a pretty good security system in the U.S." said another voter.

Voter registration information is generally public information. Information like voters’ names, addresses and voting history are generally available nationwide. It is unclear if Iran and Russia received information that is publicly available.

"We have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters,” Ratcliffe said.

Ratcliffe claimed that the emails worked to hurt Trump's campaign, but House Democrat Ted Lieu, a member of the Intelligence Committee, questioned how the emails were intended to hurt Trump's campaign.

Wray reassured voters that the election is safe.

"You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism."

Last month, the FBI released a statement saying that cyber criminals and foreign actors are attempting to use online platforms to “manipulate public opinion, discredit the electoral process, and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions.”

These cyber criminals are hoping to sow doubt on the election by saying that data has been “hacked” or “leaked,” the FBI said. Some voter information is generally publicly available, and doesn’t need to be hacked or leaked. While the ballots themselves are secret, absentee ballot requests, names, addresses and similar information is generally public record.

In August, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement outlining efforts by Iran, China and Russia to attempt to undermine this year’s presidential election.

“Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process,” William Evanina, director of the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said. "They may also seek to compromise our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results. However, it would be difficult for our adversaries to interfere with or manipulate voting results at scale.”

As part of Evanina’s assessment, he said that China and Iran were attempting to seek a favorable outcome for Biden, while Russia was working to ensure a favorable outcome for Trump.

“As Americans, we are all in this together; our elections should be our own,” Evanina previously said. “Foreign efforts to influence or interfere with our elections are a direct threat to the fabric of our democracy. Neutralizing these threats requires not just a whole-of-government approach, but a whole-of-nation effort.”

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