Washington D.C. – Last Thursday, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) confirmed foreign powers are trying to influence the presidential election. Iran and Russia obtained American voter registration information, but it is unknown exactly how they got their hands on it. So far, Russia has not done much with this information. Iran, however, has spread misinformation to voters across the U.S.
Why is Iran a threat?
According to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, Iran sent fake emails to registered Democrats in several U.S. states. The emails contained “false information.” Ratcliffe said their intent was to “cause confusion and undermine your confidence in American democracy.”
Additionally, Iran threatened unknowing Democratic and independent voters if they didn’t change their voter registration and vote for Trump. In an email screenshot posted to Twitter by @Nicoleem73, Iran posed as the far-right U.S. group, Proud Boys. The senders warned voters that if they did not do as asked, “we will come after you.”
Proud Boy members, known Trump supporters, are urging their followers to enlist as poll watchers for Election Day. Authorities believe these calls are sparking rumors of voter intimidation. Henry “Enrique” Tarrio Junior, a Proud Boys leader, denied the group’s affiliation in the email incident.
In an email to Current Affairs Times, a top security official confirmed foreign interference in the election. William Evanina, Director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said the intelligence community believes Iran “seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections.”
The FBI was adamant to highlight the integrity of the U.S.’s voting practices, and that each vote counts. Christopher Wray, FBI director, said, “Early unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Presently, the FBI is working with federal, state, and local partners to “identify and disrupt” cybersecurity threats. If they find indications of foreign interference, the agency said it will “aggressively investigate” and take “appropriate action” as needed.
It is unknown how Russia and Iran obtained voter registration information. Ratcliffe said that some voter registration information is public, and some of it can be requested.
Several Florida election officials claim they are being kept in the dark by authorities. These officials also claim to have learned no more than the public about voter interference. Two of Florida’s congressional representatives Stephanie Murphy (D) and Michael Waltz (R), requested a meeting with the FBI following confirmation of Iran’s voter meddling.
By Monday, the office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to meet Florida’s representatives. However, in an email, Evanina’s office said they want “to provide…details on the most recent threat…impacting their districts.”
What do Russia and Iran have to say?
Both Russia and Iran have denied accessing U.S. voter registration information. They also expressed disinterest in the presidential election-at-large. Alireza Miryousefi, the spokesman for Iran’s mission in the United Nations, condemned Ratcliffe’s accusation by calling it “absurd.” To ABC News, Miryousefi said, “Iran has no interest in interfering in the U.S. election and no preference for the outcome.” On the Islamic Republic News Agency site, Miryousefi said “unlike the U.S., Iran does not interfere in other country’s elections.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakhrova denied Russia’s involvement in a press release. She continued, “It is [the United States] that deliberately drag[s] the whole world into your electoral processes.” The Russian Foreign Ministry also said their foreign policy is “consistent” with international law.
Will Russia do anything with the voter registration information they were able to get their hands on? How will Iran’s emails impact Democratic voters’ ability to securely cast their ballots in this election?
Thumbnail Credit: Lexa Krug/Current Affairs Times