election interference

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National: Clemson professors warn Russian trolls coming for 2020 | Bristow Marchant/The State

Many Americans think they know what a Russian troll looks like. After the 2016 election, voters are more aware of bad actors on social media who might be trying to influence their opinion and their vote on behalf of a foreign government. But Clemson University professors Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren warn that picture may not be accurate. “People I know — smart, educated people — send me something all the time and say ‘Is this a Russian? Is this foreign disinformation?’” said Linvill, a communications professor at the Upstate university. “And it’s just someone saying something they disagree with. It’s just someone being racist. That’s not what disinformation looks like.” Linvill and Warren, who teaches economics, would know. The two compiled a database of roughly 3 million tweets identified as the products of Russian government-backed accounts both before and after the 2016 election. Now, the researchers say there are no signs Russia — and even other countries — have slowed their efforts to manipulate social media for their own ends, and are getting more sophisticated about how they use it.

Full Article: Clemson professors warn Russian trolls coming for 2020 | The State.

National: Lawmakers spar at testy Mueller hearing | Morgan Chalfant/The Hill

A House Judiciary Committee hearing turned heated on Thursday as Republicans accused Democrats of wasting time examining special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference, with one GOP lawmaker labeling the hearing a “farce.” Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) called the hearing to get expert testimony on the first volume of Mueller’s report, which describes Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and catalogues well over 100 contacts between Moscow and members or associates of the Trump campaign. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) gave a sharp rebuke of the hearing during his questioning, suggesting Nadler was wasting time by inviting witnesses without any direct knowledge of the investigation. Gaetz asked Nadler whether he is going to subpoena Mueller, who has telegraphed a reluctance to testify publicly before Congress despite Democrats’ efforts to bring him in. “Chairman, are you going to subpoena Robert Mueller?” Gaetz asked. “I’m not going to answer that at this time,” Nadler replied.

Full Article: Lawmakers spar at testy Mueller hearing | TheHill.

Editorials: Ohioans must act to keep the 2020 elections secure against foreign interference | David Salvo/cleveland.com

In less than 17 months, Ohioans will go to the polls to vote in the 2020 presidential election. An all-important swing state, Ohio will once again be the focus of many presidential candidates, national and international reporters, campaign volunteers and political pundits. But Ohio will likely be a target of more nefarious actors, too. Authoritarian governments are still seeking to undermine Americans’ confidence in our elections. Yet, there are vulnerabilities we have yet to address as a nation, all with consequences for the health of our democracy. Ohioans already have experienced election interference from foreign actors. In 2016, Russian government trolls sought to influence Ohioans’ opinions on presidential candidates and key political and social issues. These trolls used numerous tactics, such as impersonating real Ohio media outlets that looked and sounded legitimate, but were actually fake. These falsified accounts gained thousands of followers on Twitter.

Full Article: Ohioans must act to keep the 2020 elections secure against foreign interference: David Salvo (Opinion) - cleveland.com.

Editorials: Russia’s election interference is no longer a surprise. It should still infuriate. | The Washington Post

Russia’s meddling with democracy no longer comes as a surprise. It should, nevertheless, continue to provoke anger, outrage and a determination to respond. Observers predicted that last month’s elections for European Parliament would offer a window on a new era of disinformation. Now, European Union officials have rendered a verdict that suggests the Kremlin kept itself busy — engaging not in any grand cross-border campaign but in sustained interference on a smaller scale that may be even harder to root out. Worse, others followed its lead. The E.U. report and concurrent outside research show that the enemy is evolving. Gone are the days when vast networks of false-identity accounts and their automated counterparts worked en masse to spread tales of events that never occurred or malicious lies about public figures. Now, operations are more localized and harder to detect. They feature what experts call narrative warfare, pushing polarizing and distorted variations of otherwise true stories, stripped of context, rather than outright fabrications. The tactic is tougher both for platforms to detect and for governments to legislate against.

Full Article: Russia’s election interference is no longer a surprise. It should still infuriate. - The Washington Post.

Europe: Trump Invited New Russian ‘Information’ About Opponents. Europe Knows Where That Leads. | Michael Weiss/Daily Beast

In his much-commented 60 Minutes interview this week, Donald Trump breezily dismissed the idea that accepting information on political rivals from foreign sources was untoward. “It’s not an interference, they have information,” he said. “I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI.” Thus the man who routinely indulges in the fantasy that a collective of American spies is arranging his downfall has no compunction about letting foreign spies arrange the downfall of his opponents. It all depends on what gifts they come bearing. But the trouble with inviting foreign countries into your political system is that once they accept the invitation they never leave. A new study I’ve co-edited, published by the Free Russia Foundation, offers a chilling tour d’horizon of how the Kremlin has walked right into the judiciaries, interior ministries, ballot boxes, campaign coffers and even spy services of Europe, all because domestic politicians initially waved them in. The broad conclusion of “Misrule of Law,” as the report is titled, is that instead of a Europe whole and free, we’ve got one partly subsidized and dangerously subservient to Vladimir Putin.

Full Article: Trump Invited New Russian ‘Information’ About Opponents. Europe Knows Where That Leads..

Taiwan: U.S. helping to protect Taiwan against Chinese election meddling | Chiang Chin-yeh and Evelyn Kao/Focus Taiwan

In anticipation that China will try to meddle with Taiwan’s presidential election next year, the United States has started dialogue with Taiwan to help strengthen its ability to deal with the issue, a U.S. official said Wednesday. “It’s a very important issue for us,” Randall Schriver, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said during the conclusion of a forum on Asian policies that touched on Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election. “There’s no question in our minds that China will try to meddle, as it has done in every previous election,” Schriver said. In 1996, it came in the form of missile exercises. In 2000, then-Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) threatened the people of Taiwan, he noted. Schriver was referring to the incident in the lead up to Taiwan’s 1996 presidential election when China fired missiles into waters near Taiwan in an apparent move to dissuade people from voting for then-President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

Full Article: U.S. helping to protect Taiwan against Chinese election meddling | Politics | FOCUS TAIWAN - CNA ENGLISH NEWS.

National: Lisa Murkowski joins Mitch McConnell’s opposition to election security proposals, setting up clash with House | Manu Raju and Ted Barrett/CNN

Senate GOP resistance is building over Democratic measures to bolster security around US elections, setting the stage for a partisan clash with the House over imposing tougher safeguards ahead of 2020. In the latest sign of the escalating standoff, GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska dismissed calls Monday for election security legislation, while also rejecting a push by Democratic lawmakers to require campaigns to disclose to federal authorities if foreign nationals offer them help in presidential elections. It’s the latest sign of how the topic of election security has suddenly become a flashpoint in Congress amid President Donald Trump’s all-out assault on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. “I’m not sure why we need to have one,” Murkowski said when asked if she believed the Senate should advance an election security bill. “I know there are some who believe we have to do more election reform. I think some of it is calculated to add, I think, additional fuel to the Mueller report and the aftermath of that.” Murkowski also said she expected campaigns to voluntarily report offers of foreign interference to federal authorities, saying legislation to mandate such disclosure would amount to “political fodder.”

Full Article: Lisa Murkowski joins Mitch McConnell's opposition to election security proposals, setting up clash with House - CNNPolitics.

Europe: Russian disinformation campaign targeted voters during EU elections | Irene Kostaki/New Europe

The European Commission revealed that Russian sources attempted to suppress turnout and influence voters during last month’s EU elections that employed a continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russia that covered a broad range of topics ranging from challenging the European Union’s democratic legitimacy to exploiting divisive public debates on issues such as migration and political sovereignty. Online platforms will need to do more to combat disinformation, including sharing data, which will assist in tracking even more suspected attempts by a Russian or Chinese attempt to influence the democratic processes both in the EU and the US, particularly after Western intelligence agencies continue to uncover evidence of a sustained effort by Moscow to promote extremist views and polarise local debates through disinformation.

Full Article: Russian disinformation campaign targeted voters during EU elections.

National: FBI faces new hurdle in election interference fight: Donald Trump | Darren Samuelsohn and Natasha Bertrand/Politico

Nearly two years ago, FBI Director Chris Wray set up an office tasked solely with stopping the type of Russian inference efforts that infected the 2016 campaign. On Wednesday night, Trump undercut the whole operation in a matter of seconds. In an ABC News interview, the president first proclaimed he would have no problem accepting dirt on his opponents from a foreign power, then said Wray was “wrong” to suggest the FBI needs to know about such offers. The comments, according to interviews with nearly a dozen law enforcement veterans, have undone months of work, essentially inviting foreign spies to meddle with 2020 presidential campaigns and demoralizing the agents trying to stop them. And it’s backed Wray into a corner, they added, putting him in a position where he might have to either publicly chastise the president and risk getting fired, or resign in protest. America’s enemies will see Trump’s comments and likely “come out of the woodwork like never before to try to influence the president,” said longtime FBI veteran Frank Figliuzzi, who served as the bureau’s assistant director for counterintelligence until 2012. “And it’s going to be more difficult to defend against because they’ll try harder than ever to mask their attempts.”

Full Article: FBI faces new hurdle in election interference fight: Donald Trump – POLITICO.

National: ‘Deepfake’ videos called new election threat, with no easy fix | Susannah George/San Francisco Chronicle

“Deepfake” videos pose a clear and growing threat to America’s national security, lawmakers and experts say. The question is what to do about it, and that’s not easily answered. A House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday served up a public warning about the deceptive powers of artificial intelligence software and offered a sobering assessment of how fast the technology is outpacing efforts to stop it. With a crudely altered video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco., fresh on everyone’s minds, lawmakers heard from experts how difficult it will be to combat these fakes and prevent them from being used to interfere in the 2020 election. “We don’t have a general solution,” said David Doermann, a former official with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. “This is a cat and a mouse game.” As the ability to detect such videos improves, so does the technology used to make them. The videos are made using facial mapping and artificial intelligence. The altered video of Pelosi, which was viewed more than 3 million times on social media, gave only a glimpse of what the technology can do. Experts dismissed the clip, which was slowed down to make it appear that Pelosi was slurring her words, as nothing more than a “cheap fake.”

Full Article: ‘Deepfake’ videos called new election threat, with no easy fix - SFChronicle.com.

Europe: European elections suggest US shouldn’t be complacent in 2020 | Liisa Past/The Conversation

In many ways, the European Parliament elections in late May were calmer than expected. The more extreme political players, while gaining strength, did not do as well as many predicted. Cyber aggression and disinformation operations seem to not have been as dramatic as in 2016, when Russian hackers and disinformation campaigns targeted elections in the U.S., France and elsewhere around the world. However, there is no reason to be content. The dangers remain real. For one thing, the target societies might have internalized the cleavages and chaos from information operations or self-sabotaged with divisive political rhetoric. As a reaction, Russia may have scaled back its efforts, seeing an opportunity to benefit from lying low. Disinformation campaigns seek to sow chaos and disorder; in the run-up to the elections, the EU had plenty of that already, without any outside help. In the cybersecurity sphere, the defenders seem to have successfully changed the adversarial calculation for this time around.

Full Article: European elections suggest US shouldn't be complacent in 2020.

Europe: Russia Sought to Use Social Media to Influence EU Vote, Report Finds | Adam Satariano/The New York Times

European authorities blamed Russian groups on Friday for disinformation campaigns designed to depress turnout and sway public opinion in last month’s European Union elections, an official accounting that underscored how Russian interference has not abated and that Facebook and other tech platforms remain vulnerable to meddling. The preliminary review by the European Commission and the bloc’s foreign policy and security arm found that Russian-linked groups and other nonstate actors had worked to undermine credibility in the European Union through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Officials said new regulations might be needed to force internet platforms to do more to stop the spread of deliberately false information. “The evidence collected revealed a continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russian sources aiming to suppress turnout and influence voter preferences,” the report said. The report was the first official substantiation by the European Commission of the role that Russians and other groups played in disinformation in the May elections, which many investigators, academics and advocacy groups had warned about. It was a reminder of how active Russians and others continue to be in spreading divisive content online to inflame and stoke electorates all over the world, a strategy that the Kremlin had pioneered in the 2016 American presidential election.

Full Article: Russia Sought to Use Social Media to Influence E.U. Vote, Report Finds - The New York Times.

National: 2020 Campaigns Remain Vulnerable as Signs of Russian Hackers Re-Emerge | Dustin Volz and Tarini Parti/Wall Street Journal

Many 2020 presidential campaigns face challenges in rebuffing cyberattacks despite taking some steps to beef up security, an issue brought into fresh focus by President Trump’s comments that he might accept information from foreign governments that was damaging to his rivals. Three years after John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman, clicked on a spear-phishing email that allowed Russian hackers to break into his account, followed by the publication of his emails by WikiLeaks, campaigns today are hiring security personnel, using encrypted messaging apps and restricting access to sensitive information. But they are falling short in important areas, according to current and former U.S. officials, cybersecurity experts and people familiar with the operations of various campaigns. Those include an unwillingness to share information among campaigns about attempted hacks, regulations that prevent campaigns from accepting free or discounted security services, and technological advances that make deterring threats more difficult. Already there are signs that the same foreign forces that targeted the Clinton campaign are resurfacing.

Full Article: 2020 Campaigns Remain Vulnerable as Signs of Russian Hackers Re-Emerge - WSJ.

National: Trump smashed months of FBI work to thwart election interference | Daren Samuelsohn and Natasha Bertrand

Nearly two years ago, FBI Director Chris Wray set up an office tasked solely with stopping the type of Russian interference efforts that infected the 2016 campaign. On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump undercut the whole operation in a matter of seconds. In an ABC News interview, the president first proclaimed he would have no problem accepting dirt on his opponents from a foreign power, then said Wray was “wrong” to suggest the FBI needs to know about such offers. The comments, according to interviews with nearly a dozen law enforcement veterans, have undone months of work, essentially inviting foreign spies to meddle with 2020 presidential campaigns and demoralizing the agents trying to stop them. And it has backed Wray into a corner, they added, putting him in a position where he might have to either publicly chastise the president and risk getting fired, or resign in protest. America’s enemies will see Trump’s comments and likely “come out of the woodwork like never before to try to influence the president,” said longtime FBI veteran Frank Figliuzzi, who served as the bureau’s assistant director for counterintelligence until 2012. “And it’s going to be more difficult to defend against because they’ll try harder than ever to mask their attempts.”

Full Article: Trump smashed months of FBI work to thwart election interference - POLITICO.

National: Trump’s comments blur line between ‘oppo research’ and stolen information | Bridget Bowman/Roll Call

President Donald Trump’s argument in an interview that it was acceptable, and even common, to use opposition research from foreign governments threw a spotlight Thursday on how campaigns research opponents and whether they draw a line at foreign interference. Trump said in a Wednesday interview with ABC News he would consider accepting “oppo research” from a foreign government and wouldn’t necessarily alert the FBI. He also said members of Congress “all do it, they always have.” Lawmakers from both parties quickly pushed back on that characterization. Both parties have campaign staff and outside groups that work to uncover negative information about political opponents, but that research does not involve help from foreign governments. “I’ve lost track of how many campaigns I’ve been a part of, but can say with 1,000 percent confidence that I, and the people I’ve worked with, have never received ‘dirt’ on an opponent from a foreign adversary, let alone solicited it,” said Shripal Shah, vice president of American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic opposition research super PAC.

Full Article: Trump’s comments blur line between ‘oppo research’ and stolen information.

National: Trump hit with bipartisan criticism for welcoming foreign help in 2020 election | Eli Stokols, Noah Bierman and Chris Megerian/Los Angeles Times

President Donald Trump, after two years of hammering home a simple, powerful defense — “no collusion!” — came under bipartisan fire Thursday after he said he would gladly “listen” if a foreign government offered him dirt on a political opponent, and asserted there would be nothing wrong with doing so. The president’s defiant comments in a television interview suggest special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s final report — which found “sweeping and systematic” Russian interference in the 2016 election aimed at helping Trump win — did not so much chasten Trump as embolden him. National security veterans warned that Trump’s cavalier attitude all but invited foreign meddling in the 2020 race, raising the stakes as election officials and campaigns worry about sophisticated “deepfake” videos and other disinformation aimed at influencing voters. “Every hostile intelligence service in the world is listening to that,” said Robert Anderson, a former assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division. “Forget Russia, it’s everybody. It’s China, it’s Iran.” The president’s stated willingness to accept foreign help in an election set off a cascade of criticism Thursday, spurring fresh Democratic calls for impeachment and some Republican expressions of concern, if not condemnation. Under federal law, foreigners are barred from donating money or making gifts to influence U.S. elections.

Full Article: Trump hit with bipartisan criticism for welcoming foreign help in 2020 election | Political News | ArcaMax Publishing.

Editorials: Mitch McConnell, Too, Welcomes Russian Interference | Jamelle Bouie/The New York Times

Why won’t Mitch McConnell protect our elections from outside interference? His Republican colleagues in the Senate want to do something. That’s why some of the most conservative members of his caucus are working with Democrats to improve the nation’s election security. One proposal, according to The New York Times, would “require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads.” Another, devised by Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, would “impose mandatory sanctions on anyone who attacks an American election.” Yet another, the brainchild of Senators James Lankford of Oklahoma and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, would “codify cyber information-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials.”

Full Article: Opinion | Mitch McConnell, Too, Welcomes Russian Interference - The New York Times.

Editorials: Foreign Election Interference Is Wrong, President Trump | Michael R. Bloomberg/Bloomberg

It was extraordinary to hear a U.S. president declare that the FBI director is “wrong” for saying that candidates should report to the FBI — as the law clearly intends — any effort by foreign agents to aid a political candidate by passing along opposition research. President Trump does not understand the value of the law prohibiting campaigns from such aid, nor does he appear to have any intention of following it. For all the different interpretations of the Mueller report, there is one aspect of it where there should be no debate among Republicans and Democrats: The threat of foreign meddling in U.S. elections has increased, it must not be tolerated or abetted, and campaigns must be held accountable for assisting in policing this national security imperative. On this issue, the standard for ethical and patriotic behavior should not be whether someone engages in a criminal conspiracy. It should be whether someone acts with honor in rebuffing — and reporting — attempts at foreign influence. That did not happen in 2016, and unless Congress acts soon, we may see an even worse breach in 2020. The National Republican Campaign Committee has refused to pledge, as its Democratic counterpart has, not to use hacked or stolen materials. And now the president has indicated that his re-election campaign would be open to using them, too. The Russians — to say nothing of the North Koreans — must be grinning ear to ear.

Full Article: Foreign Election Interference Is Wrong, President Trump - Bloomberg.

National: Ex-NSA director says Mueller report highlights risks of foreign interference | Morgan Chalfant/The Hill

Former National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike Rogers says the full report by special counsel Robert Mueller shows just how important it is for the government to be laser-focused on stopping interference in its elections by foreign governments. “That should be totally unacceptable, totally unallowable, and we ought to be focused on what are we going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Because it’s not going to go away,” Rogers said in a wide-ranging interview with The Hill. Rogers, who retired his uniform a year ago, urged the public to read Mueller’s report to judge its findings independently, describing the breadth of the Russian effort as chilling. “I think the breadth of the Russians’ effort, the amount of time, the complexity of that effort — it didn’t surprise me, but again, I think it’s something that ought to make people step back and say, ‘Wow, this wasn’t a casual effort,’ ” Rogers said. “This was a broad, sustained, comprehensive strategy about how we are going to attempt to influence and impact the 2016 election.”

Full Article: Ex-NSA director says Mueller report highlights risks of foreign interference | TheHill.

National: Unfinished Business: What Mueller Didn’t Cover, But Congress Can | John T. Nelson/Just Security

The House Intelligence Committee hearings on the first volume of the Mueller report and the FBI’s underlying counterintelligence probe are scheduled to begin Wednesday with the testimony of two former senior Bureau officials and a former Assistant US Attorney. As one of these witnesses, Stephanie Douglas, has written of Russia’s election interference efforts in Just Security, “I am not sure there are many intelligence plans which work any better than this one.” The use of the present tense is unlikely to be accidental. Despite its thoroughness in investigating certain aspects of Russia’s election interference, the Mueller report addresses only a narrow slice of a larger intelligence story that is still unfolding. President Donald Trump’s curious relationship with Russia did not begin with the Trump Tower Moscow deal and it has not ended with his inauguration—more or less the time frame analyzed in the first volume of the report. Chairman Adam Schiff’s committee’s oversight mandate certainly includes the activities and relationships described in volume one, but is not limited to them. There are many questions to be asked, therefore, not only about why Mueller framed his investigation as he did, but also about what he left outside of the picture entirely. So what exactly are the potential lines of further inquiry for Congress to pursue?

Full Article: Unfinished Business: What Mueller Didn’t Cover, But Congress Can.