In an effort to inform the public of threats to the nation’s upcoming election, a top intelligence official stressed adversaries’ continued use of covert and overt influence in attempts to shift U.S. voters’ preferences, sway policies and undermine Americans’ faith in U.S. democracy.
The Aug. 7 statement from William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, comes in the wake of his previous statement about threats to the 2020 election. Evanina predicts attacks on U.S. election infrastructure as a way to interfere with the voting process, steal sensitive data or call into question the validity of election results.
Despite these concerns, Evanina says it will be difficult for adversaries to influence voting results at that level. Currently, the center is primarily concerned with activity from China, Russia and Iran.
Based on the center’s assessment, China prefers President Donald Trump doesn’t win reelection. According to Evanina, China’s public rhetoric has become increasingly critical of the current administration over the past few months especially on issues such as COVID-19, Hong Kong and TikTok. China has expanded its efforts in influencing U.S. policy, pressuing political figures opposed to China’s interests and deflecting counter criticism of China.
The center found Russia is using a wide range of measures to delegitimize Joe Biden’s campaign, which it views as anti-Russia. This is consistent with Russia’s criticism of Biden during his time as vice president, where he played a role in the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy and support for anti-Putin opposition. According to Evanina, Russia supporters are spreading claims about Biden and attempting to boost Trump’s campaign on social media and TV.
Lastly, the center said Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and the president to divide the country prior to the 2020 elections. The center expects Iran’s efforts to focus on online influence such as spreading disinformation and anti-U.S. content on social media. According to Evanina, Iran’s motivation is driven by the belief that Trump’s reelection would continue U.S. pressure for regime change in Iran.
Ending his statement, Evanina emphasized the intelligence community’s work in fighting both cyber and other influence efforts targeting American elections. The community continues to support the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI in safeguarding the election.
Additionally, the center has continued to provide election threat briefings to stakeholders and will regularly release updates to the American public.
“Our election should be our own,” Evanina said. “Foreign efforts to influence or interfere with our elections are a direct threat to the fabric of our democracy.”