clearn.png
Saturday September 25th, 2021 9:23PM

US officials link Iran to emails meant to intimidate voters

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — ‎U.S. officials have accused Iran of being behind a flurry of threatening but fake emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states in a late-stage efforts to sway public opinion and interfere in the presidential election.

Purportedly from far-right, pro-Trump groups like the Proud Boys, the fake emails were apparently aimed at intimidating voters. John Ratcliffe, the government’s national intelligence director, said the aim was to hurt President Donald Trump in the contest against Democrat Joe Biden, though he did not elaborate on how.

One possibility is the messages may have been intended to align Trump in the minds of voters with the Proud Boys after he was criticized for failing to unequivocally denounce the group during the first presidential debate.

The threatening emails officials did not lay out specific evidence for how they came to pinpoint Iran, but the activities attributed to Tehran would mark a significant escalation for a country some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage. The announcement was made late Wednesday at a hastily called news conference 13 days before the election.

The allegations underscored the U.S. government's concern about efforts by foreign countries to influence the election by spreading false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote. Such direct attempts to sway public opinion are more commonly associated with Moscow, which conducted a covert social media campaign in 2016 aimed at sowing discord and is again interfering this year, but the idea that Iran could be responsible suggested that those tactics have been adopted by other nations, too.

“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said Ratcliffe, who, along with FBI Director Christopher Wray, insisted that the U.S. would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 U.S. election and that the integrity of the vote remains sound.

“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”

The two officials called out Russia and Iran for having obtained voter registration information, though such data is sometimes easily accessible and there was no allegation either country had hacked a database for it or had altered any vote tallies. Iran sent spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters and sow unrest and also distributed a video that falsely suggested voters could cast fraudulent ballots from overseas, Ratcliffe said.

Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the U.S. has linked Tehran to messages that Democratic voters in multiple states, including Alaska and battleground locations like Florida, have received. The emails falsely purported to be from the far-right group Proud Boys and warned that “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump. A security researcher who examined dozens of the emails

It would not be the first time that the Trump administration has said Tehran is working against the Republican president.

An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections." It said the country would probably continue to focus on “spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content.”

A spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations, Alireza Miryousefi, denied Tehran had anything to do with the alleged voter intimidation.

“Unlike the U.S., Iran does not interfere in other country’s elections,” Miryousefi wrote on Twitter. “The world has been witnessing U.S.' own desperate public attempts to question the outcome of its own elections at the highest level.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador on Thursday over the allegations. The Swiss Embassy has overseen America’s interests in Tehran since the aftermath of the 1979 hostage crisis.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, while rejecting the allegations and the fake reports, again emphasizes that there’s no difference for Tehran which candidate goes to the White House,” the ministry said in a statement.

Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the announcement, but he repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.

“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying, ‘Let’s make a deal.’”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee, said the “disturbing” threats cut to the heart of the right to vote.

“We cannot allow voter intimidation or interference efforts, either foreign or domestic, to silence voters’ voices and take away that right,” they said in a statement.

While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated U.S. election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so, and it was not clear how officials were able to identify Iran so quickly.

The operation represented something of a departure in cyber-ops for Iran, which sought for the first time on record to undermine voter confidence. Iran’s previous operations have been mostly propaganda and espionage.

A top cyberthreat analyst, John Hultquist of FireEye, said the striking development marked “a fundamental shift in our understanding of Iran’s willingness to interfere in the democratic process. While many of their operations have been focused on promoting propaganda in pursuit of Iran’s interests, this incident is clearly aimed at undermining voter confidence.”

The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.

Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.

“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.

___

Bajak reported from Boston. Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta; Michael Balsamo, Colleen Long and Zeke Miller in Washington; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed.

___

AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, AP Business, AP Elections - Political Conventions, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Face to face: Trump and Biden to meet for final debate
President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are set to square off in their final debate Thursday
9:17PM ( 7 minutes ago )
US officials link Iran to emails meant to intimidate voters
U.S. officials say Iran is responsible for emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple states aimed at intimidating the recipients into voting for President Donald Trump
9:17PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Remains found in search for 1921 Tulsa race massacre victims
At least 10 bodies have been found in an unmarked mass grave during a search at a Tulsa cemetery for the remains of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
9:10PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters
U.S. officials say Iran is responsible for emails meant to intimidate American voters and sow unrest in multiple states, and Tehran and Moscow have also obtained voter registration information with the goal of interfering in the election
8:22PM ( 1 hour ago )
Face to face: Trump, Biden to meet for final debate
President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are set to square off in their final debate Thursday
7:52PM ( 1 hour ago )
In rebuke of Trump, Obama urges voters to show up for Biden
Former President Barack Obama is blasting President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his response to racial unrest and his fundamental unfitness for the job in his first in-person campaign pitch for Joe Biden
7:46PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Obama, in pitch for Biden, urges Black men not to sit out
Former President Barack Obama is making his first in-person campaign pitch for his former vice president, Joe Biden, urging voters in Philadelphia — particularly Black men — not to sit out the election and risk reelecting President Donald Trump
5:46PM ( 3 hours ago )
Francis becomes 1st pope to endorse same-sex civil unions
Pope Francis has become the first pontiff to endorse same-sex civil unions
5:36PM ( 3 hours ago )
Next up in hunt for COVID-19 vaccine: Testing shots in kids
The global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine for kids is only just beginning — a lagging start that has some U.S. pediatricians worried they may not know if any shots work for young children in time for the next school year
4:02PM ( 5 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Watchdog group cites interference at polls in Latino areas
A voting rights group says that caravans of flag-waving President Donald Trump supporters appeared to obstruct and intimidate voters at two polling location in predominantly ethnic-minority neighborhoods last weekend in the Albuquerque area
7:52PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Trump tells rally about '60 Minutes' interview
President Donald Trump is keeping up a public feud with “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, who he says took him too seriously after he pleaded for suburban women to love him
7:51PM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump grants clemency to five backed by ally Alice Johnson
President Donald Trump has granted clemency to five people convicted of committing drug and financial crimes
7:50PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Trump the dancer? His moves to 'YMCA' at rallies are a hit
President Donald Trump's dad dancing to the Village People’s “YMCA" is turning out to be a hit at his campaign rallies
2:05PM ( 7 hours ago )
In Tennessee, final debate puts surging virus in spotlight
When President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden arrive in Nashville for their final debate, they’ll be greeted by a city with rising coronavirus case counts
1:58PM ( 7 hours ago )
Pandemic relief talks inch ahead, but McConnell is resistant
Negotiations on a COVID-19 relief bill have taken a modest step forward, though time is running out and President Donald Trump’s most powerful Senate ally is pressing the White House not to move ahead
1:57PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Elections
Trump tends to his electoral map, Biden prepping for debate
President Donald Trump is hopping from one must-win stop on his electoral map to the next in the leadup to a final presidential debate that may be his last, best chance to alter the trajectory of the 2020 campaign
6:22AM ( 15 hours ago )
Barack Obama to hold his first in-person event for Joe Biden
Former President Barack Obama is returning to Philadelphia for his first in-person 2020 campaign event for Joe Biden
5:57AM ( 15 hours ago )
Democrats: Justices' 4-4 tie in election case ominous sign
The Supreme Court’s action in a Pennsylvania voting case has heightened fears among Democrats about Amy Coney Barrett joining the high court in time to decide a post-election dispute and with it the winner of the White House
5:49AM ( 15 hours ago )
General Presidential Election News
Tesla posts net profit for fifth straight quarter
Tesla charged through a summertime auto industry sales slump in the U.S. to post stronger-than-expected net earnings for the third quarter
6:16PM ( 3 hours ago )
Short-video app Quibi shutting down just months after launch
Short-video app Quibi is shutting down just six months after its April launch after struggling to find customers
6:11PM ( 3 hours ago )
Protesters in Colombia decry government pandemic response
Protesters filled a historic square in Colombia’s capital Wednesday to demonstrate against the government’s handling of a wide range of issues including the economic fallout of the pandemic and implementation of the peace accord
5:24PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business
Face to face: Trump and Biden to meet for final debate
President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are set to square off in their final debate Thursday
9:17PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Remains found in search for 1921 Tulsa race massacre victims
At least 10 bodies have been found in an unmarked mass grave during a search at a Tulsa cemetery for the remains of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
9:10PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Supreme Court puts curbside voting on hold in Alabama
The Supreme Court has put on hold a lower court order that would have permitted curbside voting in Alabama in November
9:06PM ( 18 minutes ago )
In pitch for Biden, Obama urges voters to cast Trump out
Former President Barack Obama is blasting President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his culpability in national discord and his overall fitness for the job in his first in-person campaign pitch for Joe Biden, his former vice president
8:55PM ( 29 minutes ago )
World Series Notebook: Rays enjoying playing with fans again
The Tampa Bay Rays are getting used to playing in front of fans again after seeing them for the first time since spring training in Game 1 of the World Series
8:44PM ( 41 minutes ago )