- The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has caught Iran and Russia trying to meddle in the upcoming presidential election
- Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said both countries had obtained voter registration information in an attempt to undermine the U.S.A
- While he said Russia has not yet done anything with this information, Iran has been blamed for a series of threatening emails sent to Democrat voters in 3 U.S. states
- The sender of the emails posed as a member of the far-right group known as the Proud Boys and threatened voters if they did not vote for Donald Trump
- Given the poor relationship President Trump has with Iran, it's likely that if Iran did send the emails, it was to cause confusion and chaos rather than actually get people voting for Trump
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has caught Iran and Russia trying to meddle in the upcoming presidential election.
The Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a press conference on Wednesday the two countries have obtained voter registration information in an attempt to "communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine your confidence in American democracy".
He did not say how the FBI found out Russia and Iran had obtained the voter registration information. There was no suggestion from Mr Ratcliffe that ballots or voting systems may have been compromised.
The findings come after a series of spoof emails were allegedly sent to U.S. voters in 3 different states, with the sender posing as a member of a far-right group known as the Proud Boys.
Iran behind the emails
The emails in question were sent to Democrat voters in Alaska, Arizona, and Florida, with the sender demanding the voters change their party affiliation to Republican and vote for Donald Trump "or else".
"We are in possession of all your information (email, address, telephone... everything)," the email said.
"You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access to the entire voting infrastructure," it read.
"You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you."
The email concluding by urging the receiver to "take this seriously".
The email was sent in two waves, first on Tuesday, October 20, and the second a day later. It came with an attached video allegedly showing a hacker filling in and printing out voter registration and absentee ballots for Alaskan citizens — seemingly an attempt to prove the risks behind mail-in voting.
In his Wednesday press conference, Mr Ratcliffe said the email and the video were not legitimate and came from Iran. He did not say how the FBI had traced the emails back to the Middle Eastern country.
"We have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump," Mr Ratcliffe said.
"Additionally, Iran is distributing other content to include a video that implies that individuals could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas. This video and any claims about such allegedly fraudulent ballots are not true."
He said the actions are "desperate attempts by desperste adversaries".
Ready for Russia
While no such concrete claims, such as the spoofed email, have been made against Russia, Mr Ratcliffe said the FBI has confirmed Russia obtained some voter registration information separately from Iran.
"Although we have not seen the same actions from Russia, we are aware that they have obtained some voter information, just as they did in 2016," he said.
"Rest assured that we are prepared for the possibility of actions by those hostile to democracy."
Mr Ratcliffe did not give any evidence of Russia's actions.
"We are standing before you now to you the confidence that we are on top of this and providing you with the most powerful weapon we have two combat these efforts. The truth. Information. We ask every American to do their part to defend against those who wish us harm," he said.
Why support Trump?
Of course, President Trump and Iran have had anything but a happy relationship. In fact, Iran vowed "severe revenge" against the president after a U.S. drone strike killed Iran's top military commander, Gen Qasem Soleiman, back in January.
At the same time, Iran pulled back from the 2015 nuclear accord.
This has raised some questions about why a country so adverse to President Trump would spoof emails urging people to vote for him.
It seems the motivation is more one of chaos and confusion than support for any particular candidate. Earlier this month, Twitter banned 130 accounts linked to Iran that posted both for and against President Trump and Democrat candidate Joe Biden in an attempt to disrupt public conversation during the first presidential debate.
Middle East Fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy Ariane Tabatabai said on Twitter Iran's goal is to undermine trust in democratic institutions and U.S. elections.
This is assuming that Iran's ultimate objective is to promote a candidate or a party. That's not the case. Iran's goal (much like Russia and China) is to sow chaos and undermine trust in democratic institutions and in our elections.— Ariane Tabatabai (@ArianeTabatabai) October 22, 2020