FBI: Iran and Russia have taken action to interfere in the election

The FBI held a brief press conference today at which Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced that both Iran and Russia have taken steps to interfere in the 2020 election.

“First we have confirmed that some voter registriation information has been obtained by Iran and separately by Russia,” Ratcliffe said at the briefing, which comes less than two weeks before Election Day.

“This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy.”…

He added that “these actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries. Although we have not seen the same actions from Russia, we are aware that they have obtained some voter information just as they did in 2016.”

Ratcliffe said that Iran had already sent emails out to voters designed to “intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump.” Specifically, Iran is behind an effort to send threatening emails to Democratic voters which appeared to have been send from the Proud Boys:

On Tuesday, an unknown number of Demoratic voters in Florida, Arizona, and Alaska received a threatening email urging them to vote for “Vote for Trump or else!”

“We are in possession of all your information,” the email read. “You are currently registered as a Democrat, and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure. You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you. Good luck.”

In addition to the emails, some included a video connecting President Trump to the Proud Boys. The video then showed an alleged hacker navigating through voter data and printing out a provisional ballot known as a FWAB.

“FWABs are typically ballots of last resort, and if any other ballot has been submitted by the voter, they trump the FWAB,” Matt Bernhard, a cybersecurity researcher who works for the elections security non profit VotingWorks, told Motherboard in an online chat…

“This is just bullshit fear mongering,” Bernhard said. “First of all, showing us a bunch of files in a file system doesn’t prove anything. second of all, the databases shown are quite possibly ones that are publicly available anyways, or that have been posted to dark web sites after leaks.”

U.S. Intelligence officials said in August that Russia preferred that Biden lose the election while Iran and China preferred that Trump lose. So I guess the plan here was to rile up Democrats in swing states by sending out these threats that appeared to be coming from a group the recipients would see as working on behalf of President Trump. Perhaps they hoped the source of the material would go undetected and it would create a media firestorm. Instead it appears the FBI caught on quickly and identified the source as Iran.

As for Russia, they seem to have some of the same voter information but haven’t done anything with it yet. Maybe the fact that this Iranian effort was immediately uncovered will dissuade them from trying.

Here’s the full statement by DNI Ratcliffe and FBI Director Wray:

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