US security chiefs warn of foreign meddling in 2020 vote

US security chiefs warn of foreign meddling in 2020 vote

Singling out China, Russia and Iran, heads of 7 government agencies say ‘our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions’

Residents cast votes at Dunn Elementary School November 5, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (John Sommers II/Getty Images/AFP)
Residents cast votes at Dunn Elementary School November 5, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (John Sommers II/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — US security officials said Tuesday that foreign adversaries would likely attempt to interfere in the 2020 elections, reprising warnings made three years ago, when Moscow is accused of helping US President Donald Trump’s campaign.

In a joint statement the heads of seven top security-related agencies, including the Defense Department, Directorate of National Intelligence and the FBI, said there was no evidence yet of compromise or disruption of the national and state-level election infrastructure that would affect vote counts.

Nevertheless, they said, “Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment and affect government policies.”

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

Illustrative: Then Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats speaks about government efforts to prevent election interference during the daily press briefing at the White House, on August 2, 2018, as FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, and then Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen listen. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The statement, which came on the day of a number of off-year elections around the country, served as a reminder of the impact of Russia’s efforts in 2016, which continue to reverberate through the US political scene.

According to US intelligence chiefs — though still denied by Trump himself — Russian intelligence was behind the hacking of Democratic Party computers and communications, and attempted to electronically break into voting systems at the state and local level.

Then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks as then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, October 9, 2016. (Rick T. Wilking/Pool via AP)

Meanwhile in a parallel operation a Russian troll farm controlled by a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin ran a massive social media campaign designed to bolster Trump and hurt his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The experience bared deep weaknesses in cybersecurity in political campaigns and the machinery of voter registration and voting, as well as the vulnerability of the electorate to media manipulation and fake news.

“Election security is a top priority for the United States government,” the agency heads said.

“In an unprecedented level of coordination, the US government is working with all 50 states and US territories, local officials, and private sector partners to identify threats, broadly share information, and protect the democratic process.”

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