National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said late Wednesday that Iran and Russia had received voter registration information in an attempt to undermine confidence in the 2020 election.
Ratcliffe said Iran tried to sow unrest in the US to damage President Donald Trump’s candidacy.
He also said Russia received voter information, just like the Kremlin did when it meddled in the 2016 election.
Ratcliffe, who appeared with FBI Director Christopher Wray, said Iran had sent false information to voters, including fake emails claiming fraudulent ballots could be sent from overseas.
Ratcliffe said intelligence officials did not see the same level of activity from Russia, but the country also received voter information.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate opponents,” said Ratcliffe. “We will not tolerate foreign interference in our election.”
The hastily planned announcement comes after federal cybersecurity officials warned Americans on Wednesday Threatening emails had been sent to the voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, and other states that pushed Trump’s candidacy.
The emails, allegedly sent from “[email protected]”, say the group has the voter’s contact information and would “follow suit” if they didn’t vote for Trump.
Proud Boys is a right-wing extremist group that advocates a militant authoritarian ideology.
“These emails are designed to intimidate and undermine the confidence of American voters in our elections,” said Christopher Krebs, director of the agency for cybersecurity and infrastructure security in the Department of Homeland Security.
Although the emails claim to know which candidate someone is voting for, Krebs posted a message on Twitter reminding Americans that election secrecy is guaranteed by law in every state.
“We have already seen Iran sending fake emails aimed at intimidating voters, inciting social unrest and harming President Trump,” Ratcliffe said. “You may have seen some reports about this in the past 24 hours, or you may have been one of the recipients of these emails.”
The late evening announcement by Ratcliffe and Wray, who asked no questions, went little further than warnings issued in August when intelligence officials warned of the activities of Russia, Iran and China.
In that bulletin, the head of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center said Russia was actively working to “vilify” alleged Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden while China viewed Trump as “unpredictable” and preferred not to win re-election.
The analysis also concluded that, ahead of the 2020 elections, Iran was working to fuel division and undermine Trump.
“Tehran’s motivation for engaging in such activities is based in part on the assumption that the re-election of President Trump would result in continued US pressure on Iran,” concluded the analysis, adding that Iran also feared the Trump administration would push for regime change.
“The key takeaway for American voters is clearly that we are under attack, and we will likely have to face this challenge by November 3rd and beyond. Therefore, updates like this will be needed if developments warrant,” he said Sen. Angus King, I-. Maine said, “The American people must be skeptical and thoughtful about the information they receive, and election officials must be doubly careful because it is being targeted.”
Earlier Wednesday, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned voters against attempts to disrupt the US electoral system.
“Our opponents overseas are trying to wreak havoc and undermine voter belief in our democratic institutions, including the electoral systems and infrastructure we rely on to record and properly report expressions of voter will,” he said Acting Chairperson Marco Rubio, R-Fla. and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a joint statement without reference to any specific foreign actors.
“They may be trying to target these systems or they may simply appear to have altered or tampered with these systems in order to undermine their credibility and our trust in them.”
“In the weeks leading up to the election, we urge every American, including the media, to be careful about believing or spreading unverified, sensational claims about votes and polls. State and local electoral officials are in regular contact with federal law enforcement and cybersecurity professionals, all working around the clock to ensure the 2020 election is safe and free from outside interference. “