Iran and Russia Seek to Influence Election in Final Days, U.S. Officials Warn
By Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger
October 22, 2020 "Information Clearing House" - NYT - WASHINGTON — Iran and Russia have both obtained American voter registration data, top national security officials announced late on Wednesday, providing the first concrete evidence (?)* that the two countries are stepping in to try to influence the presidential election as it enters its final two weeks.
Iran used the information to send threatening, faked emails to voters, said John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, and Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, in an evening announcement from the bureau’s headquarters. Intelligence agencies had collected information that Iran planned to take more steps to influence the vote in coming days, prompting the unusual timing of the briefing* as an effort to deter further action by Tehran.
There was no indication that any election result tallies were changed or that information about who is registered to vote was altered,* either of which could* affect the outcome of voting that has already begun across the United States. The officials also did not claim that either nation hacked into voter registration systems* — leaving open the possibility that the data was available to anyone who knew where to look.*
The voter data obtained by Iran and Russia was mostly public*, according to one intelligence official, and Iran was exploiting it as a political campaign might. Voters’ names, party registrations and some contact information are publicly available.* That information may* have been merged with other identifying material, like email addresses, obtained from other databases, according to intelligence officials, including some sold by criminal hacking networks on the “dark web.”
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“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,” Mr. Ratcliffe said.
The Trump administration’s announcement that a foreign adversary, Iran, had tried to influence the election by sending intimidating emails*, was both a stark warning and a reminder of how other powers can exploit the vulnerabilities exposed by the (alleged)* Russian interference in 2016. But it may also play into President Trump’s hands*. For weeks, he has argued, without evidence, that the vote on Nov. 3 will be “rigged,*” that mail-in ballots will lead to widespread fraud and that the only way he can be defeated is if his opponents cheat.
Now, on the eve of the final debate, he has evidence * of foreign influence campaigns designed to hurt his re-election chances, even if they did not affect the voting infrastructure*.
Some of the spoofed emails*,, sent to Democratic voters, purported to be from pro-Trump far-right groups, including the Proud Boys. Iranian hackers* tried to cover their tracks, intelligence and security officials said, first routing the emails through a compromised Saudi insurance company network.* Later, they sent more than 1,500 emails* using the website of an Estonian textbook company*, according to an analysis by researchers at Proofpoint, a cybersecurity firm.
Until now, some officials had insisted that Russia remains the primary threat to the election. But the new information, both Republican and Democratic officials said, demonstrates that Iran is building upon Russian techniques and trying to make clear that it, too, is capable of being a force in the election.
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* Annotations, emphasis and link inserted by ICH