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US Elections Face Rising Threats from Russia, Iran; China Less Active, Says Intel Chief

The top intelligence official of the government talked about the active threats to U.S. elections from Russia and an increasingly aggressive Iran on Wednesday. Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence, said the U.S. is very prepared to address challenges to election security, even as threats multiply from new technological tools and a potentially growing pool of adversaries. Ms. Haines told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Russia represents the most active foreign threat to U.S. elections, with its goals including eroding trust in U.S. democratic institutions and exacerbating divisions in the country.

Iranian efforts to undermine the U.S. political debate are also becoming increasingly aggressive, according to Ms. Haines. She noted repeated attempts to undermine public confidence and stoke discord using cyber and influence activities, as well as social media platforms. Ms. Haines said China’s sophisticated influence apparatus appears relatively dormant and that China did not seek to covertly influence the 2020 presidential election’s outcome. She also mentioned that China’s activities promoting politicians favorable to China on key issues will continue to be monitored.

To combat the foreign threat of generative AI-powered influence campaigns, Ms. Haines stated that the government has created an intelligence community group focused on multimedia authentication. The group uses the latest technology to understand manipulated content online. Senators expressed concerns about whether the intelligence agencies’ leadership would take responsibility for publicly declaring that they know some information to be false, even if discovered at the last moment of a hotly contested campaign. Ms. Haines made it clear that she did not want to be the arbiter of truth and fiction.

Additionally, it was mentioned that last month, Sen. Mark R. Warner, chairman of the intelligence committee, had evidence that some of America’s “quasi-allies” were also seeking to interfere in U.S. politics, without identifying the countries. There have been reports of India and Pakistan attempting to influence voting in Canada’s elections. Unclassified documents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service showed that Canada detected Pakistani efforts to interfere in 2019 and India sought to interfere in 2021. India disputed the allegations.

Written by Staff Reports

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