Wednesday evening the FBI held a surprise press conference, saying they would make a major announcement on election security.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe spoke first, followed by FBI Director Christopher Wray. The TL;DR version is that both Russia and Iran have obtained voter registration data, and that Iran has engaged in activities such as sending spoofed emails to registered voters attempting to intimidate voters, to undermine voter confidence in the outcome of the election, to sow discord, and to undermine President Trump. He gave no particulars about what the Russians have done with the voter registration data they obtained.
It is our duty to ensure the sanctity of US elections. That includes ensuring the security of voting systems. The IC’s role is to identify threats and to assess the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign adversaries. Our duty also includes empowering the American people to understand information or perhaps, more accurately, disinformation, that they are seeing, particularly on the Internet, and make informed decisions for themselves.
With that in mind, we would like to alert the public that we have identified that two foreign actors, Iran & Russia, have taken specific actions to influence public opinion relating to our elections. First, we have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran and separately by Russia. 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.
To that end, we have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump. Additionally, Iran is distributing other content, to include a video that implies that individuals can cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas. This video and any claims about such allegedly fraudulent ballots are not true.
These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries. Even if the adversaries pursue further attempts to intimidate or attempt to undermine voter confidence, know that our election systems are resilient, and you can be confident your votes are secure.
Although we have not seen the same issues from Russia, we are aware that they have obtained some voter information, just as they did in 2016. Rest assured that we are prepared for the possibility of actions by those hostile to democracy.
The great women and men of the intelligence community caught this activity immediately, and our colleagues at FBI and DHS acted swiftly in response to this threat. We are standing before you now to give you the confidence that we are on top of this, and providing you with the most powerful weapon we have to combat these efforts: the truth, information.
We ask every American to do their part to defend against those who wish us harm. The way you do that is quite simple. Do not allow these efforts to have their intended effect.
This is not a partisan issue. I’ve had conversations today with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, and there is complete unanimity in the US government in our resolve to combat the enemies of freedom.
The President has instructed me to keep the public informed as appropriate, and you have my commitment that I will continue to do exactly that, with transparency and with candor.
We will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections, and we will continue to work…to disrupt and to impose costs and consequences on any adversary that attempts to interfere in our democratic processes.
Wray said, in part:
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….You should be confident that your vote counts. Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.
If you suspect criminal activity, we ask that you report that information to your local FBI field office.
It was announced prior to the press conference that no questions would be taken from reporters. We will post any further updates in a separate article.
You can watch the press conference below: