Director of the National Center for Counterintelligence and Security Calls for a “whole-of-government approach” in defending American democracy
On Friday July 24, 100 days before the November elections, the director of the US National Center for Counterintelligence and Security, William Evanina, issued a statement about the threat of foreign interference in the American elections.
The statement notes that election security remains a top priority for national counterintelligence, which is committed to supporting the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI for “their leadership in this area,” and to inform the American public about growing foreign threats.
“Today we see our opponents seeking to compromise the private communications of US political campaigns, candidates and other political goals,” says William Evanina. “Our adversaries are also seeking to compromise our electoral infrastructure, and we continue to track malicious cyber actors trying to gain access to state and federal networks, including those in charge of managing elections.”
Foreign states, the statement said, continue to use leverage in social and traditional media to influence the preferences of US voters, change US policy, increase discord and undermine credibility in the American democratic process. Among these countries, the document says, China, Russia and Iran should be highlighted.
Thus, China is stepping up its attempts to influence the political situation in the United States, to put pressure on politicians who, in its opinion, oppose China’s interests. Beijing acknowledges that its efforts could affect the presidential race.
Russia’s constant goal is to weaken the United States and diminish its global role. Using a variety of means, including Internet trolls, Moscow continues to spread disinformation in the United States to undermine the credibility of the democratic process and to denigrate those it considers the anti-Russian “establishment” in America.
Iran seeks to undermine democratic institutions in the United States and split the country ahead of the elections. Iran’s efforts are centered around internet influences such as spreading disinformation on social media and more generally anti-American content.
“American society has a role to play in securing elections, especially in maintaining vigilance against foreign influence,” says the head of National Counterintelligence. “At the most fundamental level, we urge Americans to be critical of information consumption, check sources before reposting or distributing messages, comply with cyber hygiene and media literacy rules, and report suspicious electoral activity to the authorities.”
William Evanina called for a “whole-of-government approach” to defend the American electoral system and reassured his countrymen that national counterintelligence would continue to do whatever was necessary to neutralize foreign threats.