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US Counterspy Warns About Election Threats from Iran

US Counterspy Warns About Election Threats from Iran

Saturday, 25 July, 2020 - 07:30
Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center William Evanina speaks during the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Asharq Al-Awsat

The US government's chief counterintelligence official has said that adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran are seeking to compromise American private communications and infrastructure in electoral campaigns.


Voters should be on high alert for foreign interference in the Nov. 3 US election, William Evanina, chief of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), said Friday.


He said that with just over 100 days to the election, it was "imperative" his agency share with voters some of the information about possible interference that US spies have given to campaigns and legislators.


"The American public has a role to play in securing the election, particularly in maintaining vigilance against foreign influence," said Evanina.


"At the most basic level, we encourage Americans to consume information with a critical eye, check out sources before reposting or spreading messages, practice good cyber hygiene and media literacy, and report suspicious election-related activity to authorities," he added in a written statement.


A January 2017 US intelligence community assessment found Russia meddled in the 2016 election and its goals included aiding US President Donald Trump, who has cast doubt on whether Moscow interfered in that vote.


Given the complexity of US vote counting and auditing systems, Evanina said it would be "extraordinarily difficult for foreign adversaries to broadly disrupt or change vote tallies without detection."


However, Evanina said US spy agencies now see foreign adversaries trying to compromise US political campaigns and candidates, as well as elections infrastructure.


He said foreign nations are trying to influence US voters via social and traditional media, using issues including the coronavirus pandemic and domestic protests as disinformation fodder.


Evanina said his agency was mainly concerned with interference by China, Russia and Iran, though other unnamed countries and non-state actors "could also do harm to our electoral process."


Specifically, Evanina said, China is “expanding its influence efforts to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and counter criticism of China.”


Iran is also spreading disinformation to undermine US institutions, he said.


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