Midterm Elections 2018: How the FBI is Guarding Against Interference

2018 midterms

Getty A sign guides voters on Election Day at 514 Studios on November 6, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota

As voters head to the polls today, government agencies are on alert to guard against potential threats to the system. Multiple departments have teamed up to watch for any indication of election tampering or meddling.
The agencies that are coordinating include:

• Department of Homeland Security
• Department of Justice
• Office of the Director of National Intelligence
• Other federal, state, local and private sector partners nationwide

Intelligence Officials: There Has Been No Indication That Voting Machines Were Compromised

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The leaders of those organizations released a joint statement on Monday, November 5. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, DNI Dan Coats, and FBI Director Christopher Wray stressed that they were confident that American voting systems were secure. They said that leading up to the midterm elections, there were no indications that voting machines were hacked or otherwise compromised.

“Our agencies have been working in unprecedented ways to combat influence efforts and to support state and local officials in securing our elections, including efforts to harden election infrastructure against interference. Our goal is clear: ensure every vote is counted and counted correctly. At this time we have no indication of compromise of our nation’s election infrastructure that would prevent voting, change vote counts, or disrupt the ability to tally votes.”

Intelligence Officials: The U.S. ‘Will Not Tolerate Foreign Interference’

chris wray kirstjen nielsen

GettyFBI Director Christopher A. Wray testifies while flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on October 10, 2018 in Washington, DC.

In the news release, the intelligence officials pointed out that misinformation and the spread of “fake news” by international agencies remains a concern. They specifically mentioned the ongoing cyber threat from Russia, as well as possible interference by China and Iran.

“Americans should be aware that foreign actors – and Russia in particular – continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord. They can do this by spreading false information about political processes and candidates, lying about their own interference activities, disseminating propaganda on social media, and through other tactics. The American public can mitigate these efforts by remaining informed, reporting suspicious activity, and being vigilant consumers of information, as discussed below.

The United States will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections from Russia, China, Iran, or other nations. As noted in a joint statement on October 19, 2018, such actions are a threat to our democracy, and identifying and preventing this interference is one of our highest priorities. On September 12, President Trump signed an executive order that makes clear the U.S. government will not hesitate to defend our electoral processes or punish those who attempt to undermine them.

Our agencies have been making preparations for nearly two years in advance of these elections and are closely engaged with officials on the ground to help them ensure the voting process is secure. Americans can rest assured that we will continue to stay focused on this mission long after polls have closed.”

Survey: American Voters Have More Confidence in the Security of State Elections Than Nationwide Races

midterm elections

Getty(L-R), U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Secretary of Homeland Security is Kirstjen Nielsen, and Commander, U.S. Cyber Command Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, attend a briefing at the White House, on August 2, 2018 in Washington, DC.

The top American intelligence agencies all agreed that Russia meddled in the 2016 election and was expected to try to interfere in the 2018 midterms. For example, social media trolls are believed to have influenced sentiment by spreading fake stories. Russian actors are also believed to have been responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee emails.

That list of organizations includes the CIA, FBI, NSA, Justice Department, Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence, and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. (Noteworthy: Meddling does NOT equal collusion with a campaign).

Majority of Americans are not confident that U.S. election systems are secure from hacking

This history has a majority of American voters feeling uneasy about the security of our elections, according to a Pew Research Center study conducted from September 27-October 7. The survey found that voters feel much more confident in their state elections than they do when casting votes for national races.

55 percent of adults surveyed responded that they are not confident that U.S. elections are secure from hacking and other technological threats.

However, when asked about state systems, the answers flipped. 66 percent of voters said they were very or somewhat confident that election systems were secure from hackers.

67 percent of respondents said that it was very or somewhat likely that Russia or other foreign government would attempt to influence the 2018 midterm elections. 31 percent said it was not too likely or not at all likely.

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