U.S. bracing for Russian midterm election disruption

The U.S. government is bracing for Russian efforts to disrupt the 2018 midterm elections, but experts say the United States is more vulnerable this time around.

Senior intelligence officials described Russian efforts to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections as deep, real and ongoing.

Among them, National Security Adviser John Bolton; Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen; FBI Director Chris Wray; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and Gen. Paul Nakasone, the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of U.S. Cyber Command each took turns at a White House press briefing earlier this month expressing concern over ongoing efforts by Moscow to interfere in U.S. elections.

Nielsen said that “our democracy itself is in the cross hairs.”

Wray added that “Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”

James Lewis, the head of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), says “we’re building a very good defense against what didn’t happen.”

Lewis said what the Russians did, is exploit racial hostilities, social discontent and economic inequalities to create interference in the democratic process, rather than hacking into ballot machines and changing vote results.

During his campaign, Donald Trump called for Russia to hack into Hilary Clinton’s emails, he became the first presidential candidate in American history to invite a foreign intelligence operation against a rival candidate.

 

Russian hackers launched a cyber attack on the Democratic National Committee (DNC), obtained damaging information on Hillary Clinton, and then shared it with outlets like Wikileaks with the aim of assisting Trump’s candidacy.

“Russia’s election interference reflects a trend that blends premeditation with opportunism,.” said the  Endowment for International Peace. “In reaction to Russia’s disruptive campaigns in Europe and the United States, European governments took steps before and during their 2017 elections to better protect against disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks.”

Surprisingly, an examination of American election procedures shows the US has yet to match efforts taken by other countries. Congress appropriated millions of dollars to states for election security but there is not much to show how those funds have been spent.

While concern about foreign influence in America elections is a major concern, Andrew Seidman reports on Philly.com that Michael Soliman, campaign chairman for Sen. Bob Menendez, has lobbied members of Congress on behalf of the government of Qatar, a significant power in the Arab world, which Saudi Arabia has accused of funding terrorism.

Menendez is the top Democrats on  the Foreign Relations Committee.

 

 


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