election interference

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National: Dueling Narratives Emerge From Muddied Account of Russia’s 2020 Interference | David E. Sanger/The New York Times

As accusations swirled Sunday about Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2020 election, President Trump’s national security adviser and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. could not agree on what Moscow is, or is not, doing. Their disagreement came as intelligence officials disputed reports that emerged last week about a briefing of the House Intelligence Committee. The officials now maintain that the House members either misheard or misinterpreted a key part of the briefing, and that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not mean to say that it believes the Russians are currently intervening in the election explicitly to help President Trump. They do believe that Russia is intervening in the election, and that Moscow prefers Mr. Trump, a deal maker it knows well. But at least for now, those two objectives may not be linked. The differing interpretations only made it easier for the Trump administration and Democrats to put forward their own version of what the Russians are doing. As the national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, defended Mr. Trump and intimated that the Russians favored the Democratic presidential front-runner, Senator Bernie Sanders, Mr. Biden blamed the president and other Republicans for allowing Russia to continue to interfere in the election.

Full Article: Dueling Narratives Emerge From Muddied Account of Russia’s 2020 Interference - The New York Times.

National: Russia trying to help Bernie Sanders’s campaign, according to briefing from U.S. officials | Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan/The Washington Post

U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter. President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump. “I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do. “In 2016, Russia used Internet propaganda to sow division in our country, and my understanding is that they are doing it again in 2020. Some of the ugly stuff on the Internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters.”

Full Article: Russia trying to help Bernie Sanders's campaign, according to briefing from U.S. officials - The Washington Post.

National: Sanders blasts Russia for reportedly trying to boost his presidential campaign | Susan Heavey and Simon Lewis/Reuters

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday warned Russia to stay out of U.S. elections after American officials had told him Moscow was trying to aid his campaign. “The intelligence community is telling us they are interfering in this campaign, right now, in 2020. And what I say to Mr. Putin, if elected president, trust me you are not going to be interfering in American elections,” Sanders told reporters in Bakersfield, California. Sanders, 78, a democratic socialist from Vermont, is considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and is favored to win the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. The Washington Post on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter, said U.S. officials had told Sanders about the Russian effort and had also informed Republican President Donald Trump and U.S. lawmakers. It was not clear what form the Russian assistance took, the paper said. A congressional source confirmed intelligence officials have told lawmakers Russia appears to be engaging in disinformation and propaganda campaigns to boost the 2020 campaigns of both Sanders and Trump. The source, however, cautioned that the findings are very tentative.

Full Article: (OFFICIAL)-UPDATE 5-Sanders blasts Russia for reportedly ....

National: Lawmakers Are Warned That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump | Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos/The New York Times

Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him. The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, the president berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump cited the presence in the briefing of Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, who led the impeachment proceedings against him, as a particular irritant. During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he had been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans. Though intelligence officials have previously told lawmakers that Russia’s interference campaign was continuing, last week’s briefing did contain what appeared to be new information, including that Russia intended to interfere with the 2020 Democratic primaries as well as the general election.

Full Article: Lawmakers Are Warned That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump - The New York Times.

National: Trump sacks intelligence director after congress is warned Russia wants to see him re-elected | Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan/The Washington Post

A senior US intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see president Donald Trump re-elected, viewing his administration as more favourable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments. After learning of that analysis, which was provided to House of Representatives lawmakers in a classified hearing, Mr Trump erupted at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office, perceiving him and his staff as disloyal for speaking to congress about Russia’s perceived preference. The intelligence official’s analysis and Mr Trump’s furious response ruined Mr Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. It was not clear what specific steps, if any, US intelligence officials think Russia may have taken to help Mr Trump, according to the individuals. Mr Trump announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the US ambassador to Germany. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest in a post-impeachment purge. Mr Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists.

Full Article: Trump sacks intelligence director after congress is warned Russia wants to see him re-elected | The Independent.

National: Russia will try to meddle in 2020 U.S. election, intelligence report says | Courtney Kube/NBC

Russia interfered in Western elections in 2019 and is likely to do so again in 2020, according to the latest annual threat assessment by the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service. NBC News obtained an exclusive preview of the annual report from the Baltic nation’s intelligence agency, which warns that Russia will continue to pursue cyber operations that threaten other nations. “Russia’s cyber operations have been successful and, to date, have not been sanctioned enough by the West to force Russia to abandon them,” the report says. Russia will try to interfere in the U.S. presidential election in November and in parliamentary elections in the nation of Georgia in October, it warns, saying, “The main goal is to ensure a more beneficial election result for Russia by favoring Russian-friendly candidates or those who have the most divisive influence in the West.”

Full Article: Russia will try to meddle in 2020 U.S. election, intelligence report says.

National: Senate panel wants politicians to put party aside for election security. Fat chance in 2020. | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

A long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report admonishes politicians to forget about politics when dealing with election interference operations and to exercise maximum restraint before suggesting an election was hacked or corrupted.

Good luck with that.

“Restraint” is not the operative word in the Trump era. The bipartisan report arrived just days after President Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale suggested without evidence on Twitter that a long delay in reporting Iowa caucuses results was because of a #RiggedElection. In fact, the count was marred by technical issues. And while the Republican-run committee states “the President of the United States should take steps to separate himself or herself from political considerations when handling issues related to foreign influence operations,” Trump has not been living by that mantra. Nor has he been “explicitly putting aside politics when addressing the American people on election threats.” The president has openly contemplated accepting dirt on his opponents from foreign nations in the 2020 race — and cast doubt on the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered on his behalf in 2016. And the Senate acquitted the president just this week after the House impeached him for pressuring Ukraine’s leader to help dig up dirt on the family of a political rival, former vice president Joe Biden.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Senate panel wants politicians to put party aside for election security. Fat chance in 2020. - The Washington Post.

Editorials: Messing with elections messes with democracy | Ross Ramsey/The Texas Tribune

Elections depend on trust — on the idea that the declared winners and losers were the real winners and losers. So how’s that going right now? “In a democracy, people have to have faith that elections are being run fairly, so that losers will accept the results and fight another day,” says Rick Hasen, an elections lawyer and professor at the University of California-Irvine. “That’s been taken for granted in this country and, effectively, no longer can be, with so much stress on our system and so much agitation that undermines confidence.” He’s written a book — “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy” — that went public Tuesday. That’s the day the Iowa caucuses started coming to pieces. “Confidence is the system,” Hasen says. “We don’t have a single election system. We have all of these pieces that fit together so that there’s legitimacy to the process. At some point, that can break down and you could have a substantial number of people who say, ‘This is broken, and I don’t believe this was a fair election.’ That’s what I’m really worried about.”

Full Article: Messing with elections messes with democracy | The Texas Tribune.

Editorials: How to Prevent the Next Election Meltdown | Richard L. Hasen/Wall Street Journal

Will your vote be fairly and accurately counted in the 2020 elections? It’s a question on a lot of people’s minds after this week’s fiasco in the Iowa Democratic caucuses, and it reminds us of a troubling fact: Nearly two decades after the Florida debacle over the 2000 presidential vote, too many places in the U.S. are still vulnerable to an election meltdown. Such anxieties add to well-founded concerns about the possibility of cyberattacks on our voting systems, by Russia or other malign actors. What’s worse, in today’s hyperpolarized, social-media-driven environment, such voting problems provide sensational grist for conspiracy theories that may further undermine Americans’ confidence in the fairness and accuracy of the 2020 elections. Over the past decade, a familiar frame has developed in the contentious debate over voting rules: Republicans express concern about voter fraud and enact laws supposedly intended to combat it; Democrats see these laws as an attempt to suppress Democratic votes, press for measures to expand voting access and rights, and worry about cyberattacks intended to help the GOP at the polls. It is an important debate, in which I have taken part, but it misses a deeper, more urgent reality: Most American voters in 2020 are much more likely to be disenfranchised by an incompetent election administrator than by fraud, suppression or Russian hacking.

Full Article: How to Prevent the Next Election Meltdown - WSJ.

National: Russia engaging in ‘information warfare’ ahead of 2020 election, FBI chief warns | Eric Tucker/Associated Press

The FBI director, Christopher Wray, has warned that Russia is engaged in “information warfare” heading into the 2020 presidential election, though he said law enforcement has not seen ongoing efforts by Russia to target America’s election infrastructure. Wray told the House judiciary committee that Russia, just as it did in 2016, is relying on a covert social media campaign aimed at dividing American public opinion and sowing discord. That effort, which involves fictional personas, bots, social media postings and disinformation, may have an election-year uptick but is also a round-the-clock threat that is in some ways harder to combat than an election system hack, Wray said. “Unlike a cyber-attack on an election infrastructure, that kind of effort – disinformation – in a world where we have a first amendment and believe strongly in freedom of expression, the FBI is not going to be in the business of being the truth police and monitoring disinformation online,” Wray said.

Full Article: Russia engaging in 'information warfare' ahead of 2020 election, FBI chief warns | US news | The Guardian.

National: Hackers Are Coming for the 2020 Election — And We’re Not Ready | Andy Kroll/Rolling Stone

… Four years ago, for an embarrassingly modest price, Russia pulled off one of the more audacious acts of election interference in modern history. The Internet Research Agency, the team of Kremlin-backed online propagandists, spent $15 million to $20 million and wreaked havoc on the psyche of the American voter, creating the impression that behind every Twitter avatar or Facebook profile was a Russian troll. Russian intelligence agents carried out the digital version of Watergate, infiltrating the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign, stealing tens of thousands of emails, and weaponizing them in the days and weeks before the election. Russian-based hackers tested election websites in all 50 states for weak spots, like burglars casing a would-be target. “The Russians were testing whether our windows were open, rattling our doors to see whether they were locked, and found the windows and doors wide open,” says Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. “The fact that they didn’t interject themselves more dramatically into our election was, I think, almost luck.”

Full Article: 2020 Election Hackers Are Coming -- And We're Not Ready - Rolling Stone.

National: Acting DHS secretary says he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in 2020 elections | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Friday that his agency “fully expects” Russia to attempt to interfere in U.S. elections in 2020. “As we saw in 2016, we fully expect Russia to attempt to interfere in the 2020 elections to sow public discord and undermine our democratic institutions,” Wolf said during an event hosted by the Homeland Security Experts Group in Washington, D.C. Wolf also highlighted cyber threats from China and Iran. According to the report compiled by former special counsel Robert Mueller and to findings by the U.S. intelligence community and the Senate Intelligence Committee, Russia launched a sweeping interference effort in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, using both hacking and disinformation tactics.

Full Article: Acting DHS secretary says he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in 2020 elections | TheHill.

Iowa: Democrats revamped their caucuses to fend off disinformation. Now some fear the changes could sow new confusion in tight 2020 race. | Isaac Stanley-Becker/The Washington Post

When Democrats here went to bed on the night of their first-in-the-nation caucuses four years ago, the bitterly fought contest between Hillary Clinton and the insurgent Sen. Bernie Sanders was too close to call. So an abrupt predawn notice from the state party declaring Clinton the winner sent some into a fury. Shaky videos of coin tosses deciding delegates in Clinton’s favor spread on Twitter. Stories multiplied of confused caucus-goers, untrained volunteers and mathematical inconsistencies, all amid a wave of suspicion that the party was manipulating the process for Clinton’s benefit. “I never got a satisfactory explanation for how they arrived at their number,” said J. Pablo Silva, a historian at Grinnell College who wasn’t alerted when the state party transferred a delegate from Sanders to Clinton in the precinct in this small college town where he was serving as a caucus secretary. Now, as Iowa Democrats hurtle once again toward the opening faceoff of a hard-fought presidential primary cycle — with at least four candidates seemingly in contention to win Iowa’s Feb. 3 contest — some in the party fear that reforms put in place to prevent the disarray of 2016 may create an entirely new set of problems in 2020.

Full Article: Iowa Democrats revamped their caucuses to fend off disinformation. Now some fear the changes could sow new confusion in tight 2020 race. - The Washington Post.

Ukraine: Interior Ministry asks FBI to help probe suspected Russian hack of Burisma | Ilya Zhegulev/Reuters

Authorites in Ukraine have asked the top law enforcement agency of the United States for help investigating the suspected cyberattack by Russian military hackers on Burisma Holdings, an energy company caught up in the impeachment of US President Donald Trump. The Ukrainian interior ministry on Thursday also announced an investigation into the possible illegal surveillance of the then American ambassador to Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch, following the release of  messages this week by the US Congress as part of the impeachment case. Burisma was at the center of attempts by Trump last July to persuade Ukraine to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden, who is the son of Democratic US presidential contender Joe Biden and used to have a seat on the Ukrainian company’s board.

Full Article: Ukraine asks FBI to help probe suspected Russian hack of Burisma.

National: Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment | Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg/The New York Times

With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, Russian military hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts. The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States. It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment. The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, once they had the emails, the Russians used trolls to spread and spin the material, and built an echo chamber to widen its effect.

Full Article: Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment - The New York Times.

National: Facebook sticking with policies on politicians’ lies and voter targeting | Alexandra S. Levine and Zach Montellaro/Politico

Facebook is standing by its policies that allow politicians to lie to voters, while targeting their ads at narrow subsets of the public — decisions with vast implications for the more than $1 billion in online campaign messaging expected in this year’s elections. The online giant announced Thursday morning that it is not changing the most controversial elements of its approach to campaign ads, after months of a debate that has divided Silicon Valley and brought Facebook a barrage of criticism from Democrats. The critics have been most incensed by Facebook’s refusal to fact-check politicians’ claims, accusing the company of knowingly profiting from deception. Facebook has defended the policy on free-speech grounds, saying voters should be the ones scrutinizing politicians’ messages. The company’s separate decision not to limit “microtargeting” is probably welcome news to candidates of both parties, who value the ability to tailor messages based on data such as a voter’s age, gender, neighborhood, job or sports fandom. President Donald Trump’s campaign has pushed Facebook not to limit ad-targeting, a step Google took in November, and accused Twitter of trying to “silence conservatives” when it banned political ads altogether in October.

Full Article: Facebook sticking with policies on politicians' lies and voter targeting - POLITICO.

Taiwan: How China, and the Law, Jumped in as Taiwan’s Presidential Campaign Shifted to Social Media | Ralph Jennings/VoA News

About 97% of internet users in Taiwan use Facebook. The island also has Asia’s second highest smartphone penetration after South Korea. Given these statistics, the first announced by Facebook in 2018 and the other by a market research firm, it made sense that a lot of campaigning for tomorrow’s presidential election would jump from the streets to the internet. But the rise of internet campaigning has challenged voters to know what’s true or false, and to follow a growing suite of anti-fake news laws, as politicians allege that mountains of online campaign information are untrue, illegally posted and often planted by Taiwan’s political rival China. “Beginning from last year we saw that China is using modern technology, in short it’s the social media platforms, to try to interrupt in our discussions on the internet, either through Facebook or through Twitter or even a popular online chat mechanism called Line,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told a news conference Thursday. “The fake news situation seems to be quite serious.” Last year officials passed laws that ban the spread of that information and local media say police are already investigating several cases.

Full Article: How China, and the Law, Jumped in as Taiwan’s Presidential Campaign Shifted to Social Media | Voice of America - English.

National: Facebook Bans Deepfakes but Permits Some Altered Content | Betsy Morris/Wall Street Journal

Facebook Inc. is banning videos that have been manipulated using advanced tools, though it won’t remove most doctored content, as the social-media giant tries to combat disinformation without stifling speech. But as with many efforts by social-media companies to address content on their sites that is widely seen as problematic, Facebook’s move swiftly drew criticism for not going far enough and having too many loopholes. The policy unveiled Monday by Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president for global policy management, is the company’s most concrete step to fight the spread of so-called deepfakes on its platform. Deepfakes are images or videos that have been manipulated through the use of sophisticated machine-learning algorithms, making it nearly impossible to differentiate between what is real and what isn’t. “While these videos are still rare on the internet, they present a significant challenge for our industry and society as their use increases,” Ms. Bickert said in a blog post. Facebook said it would remove or label misleading videos that had been edited or manipulated in ways that would not be apparent to the average person. That would include removing videos in which artificial intelligence tools are used to change statements made by the subject of the video or replacing or superimposing content.

Full Article: Facebook Bans Deepfakes but Permits Some Altered Content - WSJ.

Editorials: Facing the primary attack on democracy | Emily Frye & Philip Reitinger/The Hill

Democracy is under attack — and our federal, state, and local elections are the front lines. Both technical attacks and disinformation campaigns designed to undermine election legitimacy are being deployed on a daily basis to threaten the basic tenets of American society. The Justice Department’s special counsel recently concluded that “there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our elections. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.” A government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is possible only if the will of the people is known. We must be able to trust the results of our elections. Without that trust, governments appear illegitimate. The next presidential election is less than a year away, but our nation’s elections infrastructure has far less time to prepare to preserve the basic principles of democracy.

Full Article: Facing the primary attack on democracy | TheHill.

Taiwan: Why the world must pay attention to the fight against disinformation and fake news in Taiwan | Catherine Shu/TechCrunch

On Saturday, Taiwan will hold its presidential election. This year, the outcome is even more important than usual because it will signal what direction the country’s people want its relationship with China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, to move in. Also crucial are efforts against fake news. Taiwan has one of the worst disinformation problems in the world and how it is handled is an important case study for other countries. Yesterday, Twitter said in a blog post that it has held trainings for the two main political parties in Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT), and Taiwan’s Central Election Commission, in addition to setting up a portal for feedback during the election. Late last month, the state-owned Central News Agency reported that Facebook will set up a “war room” to counteract disinformation before the election, echoing its efforts in other countries (the company previously established a regional elections center at its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore).

Full Article: Why the world must pay attention to the fight against disinformation and fake news in Taiwan | TechCrunch.