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US Intelligence Claims Russia, Iran Acting to Influence 2020 Election

© REUTERS / Octavio JonesPeople line up at the Supervisor of Elections Office polling station as early voting begins in Pinellas County ahead of the election in Largo, Florida, U.S. October 21, 2020
People line up at the Supervisor of Elections Office polling station as early voting begins in Pinellas County ahead of the election in Largo, Florida, U.S. October 21, 2020 - Sputnik International
Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe has announced that US intelligence reflects that "two foreign actors, Iran and Russia, have taken specific actions to influence public opinion relating to [US] elections."

"First, we have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran, and separately by Russia," Ratcliffe claimed during a Wednesday evening address to the US public. 

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

He detailed that US intelligence officials have already caught Iran sending "spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage" US President Donald Trump. 

Citing the Department of Homeland Security and other federal and local government officials, the Washington Post reported earlier Wednesday that emails said to be addressed from the alt-right, pro-Trump group Proud Boys were actually issued by a "deceptive campaign making use of a vulnerability in the organisation's online network".

According to "numerous analysts" who spoke with the outlet, "metadata gathered from dozens of the emails pointed to the use of servers in Saudi Arabia, Estonia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates".

Ratcliffe asserted Iran was also behind a video that erroneously "implies that individuals could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas".

Vice reported that election experts view the strategy exhibited in the video as a "fear-mongering tactic" that is unlikely to work, but may have been disseminated to "undermine faith in the electoral process".

However, US Attorney General Bill Barr testified during a July 28 House Judiciary Committee hearing that "common sense" tells him foreign actors could change the results of the elections via mail-in ballots. 

"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 [the] 2016 [presidential election]", Ratcliffe noted. 

The DNI did not disclose how Russia had obtained said information. Furthermore, US officials revealed in 2018 that they lacked evidence that registration rolls allegedly scanned and probed by Russia were altered in any fashion. 

"Rest assured that we are prepared for the possibility of actions by those hostile to democracy", Ratcliffe said. 

This is not for the first time that Russia has been accused by US officials of interfering in US internal affairs, and a presidential election in particular. Moscow has repeatedly denied the accusations, noting that Russia abides by the international legal principle of non-interference.

'You Should Be Confident That Your Vote Counts' - FBI Director 

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Wray also spoke to Americans Wednesday night and argued that despite the alleged foreign interference, US voters should know that there is no way for such foreign actors to change their votes. 

"You should be confident that your vote counts", he expressed. "Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism".

He also noted that federal authorities were working with the private sector, including social media companies, to ensure that their platforms do not become mediums for the dissemination of disinformation and propaganda during the time leading up to November 3. 

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