Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Senators question whether the U.S. is ready to fight foreign interference in the 2024 election

By 37ci3 May15,2024

MPs warned on Wednesday the growing threat of foreign intervention in 2024 elections and questioned whether US agencies and technology companies are sufficiently prepared to respond to the threat.

“We need to do a better job of making sure that Americans of all political stripes understand what’s ahead in what’s likely to be … less than six months,” Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said during a hearing with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner. The head of US intelligence and other senior officials.

The Virginia Democrat warned that efforts by Russia and other adversaries to influence the 2024 election through propaganda and disinformation could be “more sophisticated and more aggressive in both scale and scope” than in previous years.

Senator Mark Warner and Senator Marco Rubio.
2023 Senator Mark Warner and Senator Marco Rubio of the Senate Intelligence Committee.Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Warner said the threat has grown as a result of more advanced and accessible technology, aggressive foreign actors, a growing distrust of government among Americans, lawsuits that prevent U.S. agencies from sharing threat information with social media companies and failures by tech firms. solve the problem decisively.

“Unfortunately, since 2022, we’ve seen a significant disinvestment and, in some cases, a complete lack of interest in platform integrity efforts by leading social media companies,” Warner said. The senator implied that social media firms are cutting staff and reducing efforts to moderate content deemed misinformation or hate speech.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, the Republican senator on the intelligence committee, said it’s unclear which federal agency or official should be held accountable if a foreign government is spreading false information or creating artificial intelligence.deeply fake” during the election campaign.

“When this happens, if this happens, who will answer this? Have we thought about what we will do when one of these scenarios occurs?’ Rubio asked. “Because I don’t understand exactly who is responsible and how we will respond. Who will lead?”

The senator said there needs to be a coordinated plan for how to respond, rather than the “ad hoc” approach used in the past.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told senators that “protecting the democratic process from outside influence or interference is an absolute priority for the intelligence community” and that the U.S. government “has never been more prepared to address this challenge.”

Haines said his office may have a role to warn about a foreign actor spreading misinformation during an election, but he said there may be cases where local or state election officials may be better placed to warn the public.

Avril Haines.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies on Capitol Hill on May 2.Mark Schiefelbein / AP file

“The hesitancy you hear from me is based on the fact that there may be certain circumstances where, for example, a state or local official or other primarily public agency is in a better position to make a public statement initially and for the rest. We need to come back,” he said.

But Haynes said the U.S. is ready to immediately call out false information spread by foreign nations, citing the example of a Russian-linked group releasing a video falsely alleging a CIA plot to undermine Donald Trump’s White House candidacy. home The unsubstantiated video allegedly depicts an internet troll farm used by the CIA in Ukraine. The New York Times first published information about Russia’s disinformation.

“And I’m here to say emphatically that this allegation is patently false, there is no such thing. This is misinformation, and it’s an approach we will continue to take across the board,” Haines said.

The intelligence director said the video was likely the work of a Russian-linked group known as “Storm-1516.”

A spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency said the video was “patently false.”

“The CIA is a foreign-focused organization that takes very seriously our commitment not to interfere in American politics and elections,” said spokesman Walter Trosin.

The threat landscape for foreign interference is now more complex, Haines told lawmakers, because the number of governments or groups seeking to shape election outcomes is growing, and there are more commercial firms willing to help them with sophisticated tools that can obscure the original instigator.

“Russia remains the most active foreign threat to our elections,” Haynes said.

Angus King.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said Wednesday he is concerned that cybersecurity officials may be overly cautious about fighting foreign interference and disinformation to avoid being accused of trying to help Joe Biden’s re-election.Pool via Patrick Semansky/Getty Images

According to him, the goal of the Russian government is to use information warfare to undermine confidence in American democratic institutions, strengthen divisions in the United States, and weaken Western support for Ukraine.

While China has sought to encourage support for Beijing’s policy stance, it did not try to shape the outcome of the recent presidential election, and is likely to maintain that approach as it seeks to avoid the fallout from an attempt to meddle in the US election. to Haines.

However, Iran is “increasingly aggressive in its efforts to sow discord and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions, as we have seen in previous election cycles,” he said.

Maine Sen. Angus King said it’s important for intelligence agencies to act quickly to alert the public as soon as they discover false information and avoid slow bureaucratic procedures that can fall into the hands of those spreading disinformation.

King said, “If you have evidence that it came from a foreign source, let the public know so they can appreciate it.”

The Maine independent said he was concerned about cybersecurity officials taking an overly cautious approach to avoid being accused of trying to meddle in the election to help re-elect President Joe Biden.

“I’m concerned that you might be too concerned about being seen as a partisan, and that will freeze you from taking the necessary action,” King said, adding, “Please speed it up. We’ve got about six months and … we know that these enemies are going to attack us. they will come closer.”

Officials and lawmakers have drawn a distinction between attempts by foreign actors to interfere with voting or ballot counting through cyberattacks and separate efforts to influence attitudes and spread disinformation.

Despite revelations that Russia hacked American voter registration rolls in 2016, there is no indication that Moscow has tampered with registration records or other election systems.

Jen Easterly, Director of Cyber ​​Security and Infrastructure Security Agencyhearing that federal and state election agencies are being strengthened security of electoral systems for the past eight years.

“There is no evidence that malicious actors altered, deleted or changed votes or had any material impact on the outcome of any of these elections,” he said. But Easterly added: “We cannot be certain.”

Russia, China and Iran have repeatedly denied trying to interfere in the US election through propaganda, disinformation or cyber attacks.

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By 37ci3

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