Thursday, October 22, 2020

Running Interference

Via the Washington Post:

U.S. officials on Wednesday night accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned that both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election.

The disclosure by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily called news conference marked the first time this election cycle that a foreign adversary has been accused of targeting specific voters in a bid to undermine democratic confidence — just four years after Russian online operations marred the 2016 presidential vote.

The claim that Iran was behind the email operation, which came into view on Tuesday as Democrats in several states reported receiving emails demanding they vote for President Trump, was leveled without specific evidence. Other U.S. officials, speaking privately, stressed that Russia still remained the major threat to the 2020 election.

On Thursday, Iran summoned the Swiss envoy in Tehran, which handles U.S. affairs there, to condemn the “baseless accusations of meddling in the U.S. election.” Hours after Ratcliffe’s announcement, the spokesman for Iran’s mission at the United Nations also described the allegations as “absurd.”

“These accusations are nothing more than another scenario to undermine voter confidence, & are absurd. Iran has no interest in interfering in the U.S. election & no preference for the outcome,” tweeted Alireza Miryousefi.

The emails claimed to be from a pro-Trump group called the Proud Boys, but evidence had mounted that they in fact were the work of another, hidden actor. U.S. officials said that was Iran, a nation that increasingly has clashed with the president in recent years.

However, officials also stressed that the integrity of the election was intact. “We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, standing next to Ratcliffe. “When we see indications of foreign interference or federal election crimes, we’re going to aggressively investigate and work with our partners to quickly take appropriate action.”

According to NPR, about 90% of the e-mails were caught in the spam filters. Also, the e-mails themselves are suspect:

For one thing, there are no spelling or glaring punctuation or grammar errors, so it was written by someone who is well-educated in the English language, which is rare among the right-wing nutsery. But the message itself is written in the same manner as the ones you get from the mysterious stranger who is telling you to send them $388 in bitcoin or they will release your private pictures to everyone on your contact list.  Anyone who thought it was genuine is the same person who would send money to a televangelist, so going phishing after Democrats is, by and large, a waste of time.

If this is an attempt by Iran or Russia to elect Biden, it’s pretty clumsy.  It seems more like they’re messing with us because they can.