Foreign adversaries are likely already planning to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election, the nation’s top intelligence official warned on Tuesday. In a worldwide threat assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wrote that competitors such as Russia, China and Iran “probably already are looking to the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.” In his statement, he predicted that these countries “will use online influence operations to try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine U.S. alliances and partnerships and shape policy outcomes in the United States and elsewhere.” Furthermore, he said, they’ll “refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences, suggesting the threat landscape could look very different in 2020 and future elections.”
The prognosis comes roughly a month after Coats revealed Moscow attempted to interfere in last year’s midterm elections, but failed to compromise the country’s election systems. Tuesday’s assessment notes that “unidentified actors” attacked election infrastructure in 2018.
The emphasis on the topic also shows that the clandestine community remains keenly aware of the threat following the massive, Kremlin-backed assault on the 2016 presidential election.
The assessment offered by Coats, based on input from the entire U.S. intelligence community, predicts Russian social media campaigns will focus on “aggravating” social and racial tensions and striking back at anti-Kremlin politicians. Moscow may also seek to spread disinformation, launch cyberattacks and manipulate data.