US intelligence officials have confirmed that Iran is responsible for a series of threatening emails against Democratic voters this week, as they revealed that Russia is also doing its part in meddling in the presidential election.
National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe on Wednesday identified the two countries as foreign actors who "have taken specific measures to influence public opinion" related to the race of the president.
Ratcliffe said the two countries separately managed to obtain and use voter registration information, most of which is readily available, to target Americans and "encourage social unrest".
"This data can be used by foreign actors to try to provide registered voters with false information that they hope will create confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy," he said at an impromptu press conference.
He said Iran was behind a series of "fake emails" designed to "intimidate" voters and "harm President Trump."
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In a last-minute press conference Wednesday evening, the director of the National Intelligence Service, John Ratcliffe, confirmed that Russia and Iran obtained voter registration and used it to provide false information to American voters
Earlier this week, registered Democrats in Alaska, Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania received emails claiming they were from the far-right group Proud Boys, who threatened to run after them if they did not vote for Trump
It comes after registered Democrats across the country received emails this week claiming they are from far-right group Proud Boys, which are threatening to run after them if they don't vote for Trump.
The emails were reported by residents of Alaska, Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania – with the exception of Alaska, these are all contested elections.
"(Insert name) We have all of your information," read the emails. “You are currently registered as a Democrat, and we know that because we have access to the entire voting infrastructure.
“You will vote for Trump or we will follow suit. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know that you have received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you & # 39;
Ratcliffe announced that Iran had distributed other content as well, including a video showing how fake ballot papers can be submitted from overseas as well.
"This video and all allegations of such allegedly fraudulent ballot papers are not true," he said.
Russia has not been found to have staged similar meddling campaigns. However, Ratcliffe confirmed that they received some voter information "just like 2016".
A chairman of the Proud Boys in Florida said the group was using two websites and had been working to move away from the domain used in the email campaign
The foreign meddling campaign takes place just two weeks before the Americans elect the next president.
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE JOHN RATCLIFFES FULL REMARKS AT FBI NEWS CONFERENCE
We would like to make the public aware that we have noticed that two foreign actors, Iran and Russia, have taken specific measures to influence public opinion regarding our elections.
We confirmed that some voter registration information was obtained from Iran and separately from Russia. This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to convey false information to registered voters that they hope will create confusion, sow chaos, and undermine your confidence in American democracy.
To this end, Iran has already sent fake emails intended to intimidate voters, spark social unrest and harm President Trump. You may have seen some reports about it in the past 24 hours, or you may even have been a recipient of these emails.
In addition, Iran is distributing other content in order to record a video that implies that individuals could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas. This video and all claims made about such allegedly fraudulent ballot papers are not true.
These actions are desperate attempts by desperate opponents. Even if opponents make further attempts to intimidate or undermine voter confidence, you should know that our electoral systems are resilient and you can be sure that your votes are safe.
While we haven't seen the same actions from Russia, we are aware that just like in 2016, they received some voter information. Rest assured that we are prepared for the possibility of actions that are anti-democratic.
The great men and women of the secret services immediately noticed this activity. And our colleagues at the FBI and DHS were quick to respond to this threat. We stand before you now to give you the confidence that we are going beyond and to provide you with the most powerful weapon to combat those efforts. the truth. Information.
We ask every American to do their part in the defense against those who want us harm. The way you do that is simple. Do not allow these efforts to produce their intended effects. If you receive an intimidating or compromised email in your inbox, don't be alarmed and don't spread the word. This is not a partisan issue. I had talks today with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, and there is complete unanimity within the US government in our determination to fight the enemies of freedom.
The President has instructed me to keep the public properly informed, and you have my promise that I will continue to do just that with transparency and openness. We will not tolerate outside interference in our elections. We will continue to work with our many partners to disrupt and cost any adversary who tries to interfere in our democratic processes. The President's efforts over the past four years to empower us to ensure election security are working.
"These actions are desperate attempts by desperate opponents," added Ratcliffe, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted that the US impose a cost on any country interfering in the 2020 election.
Despite the Iranian and Russian actions, officials said Americans could rest assured their vote would be counted.
The announcement at a rare press conference just two weeks before the election underscored concern within the US administration over overseas efforts to spread false information in order to stifle voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation because such registration lists are not difficult to come by.
The intimidation apparently used e-mail addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which contain party affiliation and home addresses, and which may contain e-mail addresses and telephone numbers.
FBI Director Chris Wray insisted that the US would impose costs on any country interfering in the 2020 election
Christopher Krebs, chief electoral security officer for the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Wednesday night after authorities raised the overseas interference campaign
These addresses were then used in what appeared to be a widespread targeted spam process. Senders said they knew which candidate the recipient voted for in the November 3 election, which is an early poll.
"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 result," Wray said on Wednesday.
"If we see evidence of foreign interference or crimes in federal elections, we will aggressively investigate and work with our partners to take appropriate action."
Wray encouraged Americans to look for voting information from reliable sources and "to be thoughtful, careful and demanding consumers of information online."
Although state-backed Russian hackers are known to infiltrate U.S. electoral infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran ever did so. Cyber security experts consider it a second rate player in online espionage.
"These emails are designed to intimidate and undermine the confidence of American voters in our elections," tweeted Christopher Krebs, chief electoral security officer for the Department of Homeland Security, Tuesday evening after reports of the first emails surfaced.
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