There will be 2024 election interference and someone will have to be blamed for the outcome: Bring out the usual suspects


Important Takeaways:

  • The 2024 US election is under threat from a growing number of foreign actors using ever more sophisticated methods to conduct interference, the country’s top intelligence official warned Wednesday.
  • Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines singled out Russia, China and Iran as the worst offenders — but added the federal government had never been better prepared to protect American democracy from foreign influence.
  • “(There) are an increasing number of foreign actors, including non-state entities, who are looking to engage in election influence activities,” she told US senators at a hearing on threats to the 2024 US election.
  • State actors are increasingly using private companies to conduct election influence operations, she said, making it harder to track down the instigators of such efforts.
  • She warned that innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) had enabled foreign actors to produce seemingly authentic political messages more efficiently, at greater scale, and with content adapted for different languages and cultures.
  • “And, of course, the most significant foreign actors who engage in foreign influence activity directed at the United States in relation to our elections are Russia, the People’s Republic of China, or PRC, and Iran,” Haines said.
  • “Specifically, Russia remains the most active foreign threat to our elections.”

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Ukraine: Black box transcript confirms illegal interference with jet downed in Iran in January

KYIV (Reuters) – The transcript from the black boxes from a Ukrainian jet accidentally shot down by Iran on Jan. 8 confirm the fact of illegal interference with the plane, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Yevhenii Yenin said Kyiv was expecting an Iranian delegation to visit Ukraine next week for talks.

The Canadian Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday an international team examining the black boxes from the jet had completed a preliminary analysis of the data in France.

“Grateful to all partners who helped bring this moment closer. Black boxes from #PS752 were read out and deciphered successfully. The transcript confirmed the fact of illegal interference with the plane,” Yenin wrote on Twitter.

Iranian forces say they downed the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 jet after mistaking it for a missile at a time of high tensions with the United States. All 176 people on board were killed.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said this month that it was too soon to blame human error for the shooting down of the airliner and that many questions remained unanswered.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in February that Kyiv was not satisfied with the amount of compensation Iran had offered.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

After nerve agent attack, NATO sees pattern of Russian interference

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a news conference at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herma

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO accused Russia on Thursday of trying to destabilize the West with new nuclear weapons, cyber attacks and covert action, including the poisoning of a Russian former double agent in Britain, that blurred the line between peace and war.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters the use of the Novichok nerve agent against Sergei Skripal and his daughter “happened against a backdrop of a reckless pattern of Russian behavior over many years”.

Russia denies any involvement and says it is the U.S.-led Atlantic alliance that is a risk to peace in Europe.

Stoltenberg, who will meet British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday in Brussels, said Russia was mixing nuclear and conventional weapons in military doctrine and exercises, which lowered the threshold for launching nuclear attacks, and increasingly deploying “hybrid tactics” such as soldiers without insignia.

Stoltenberg listed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, its direct support for separatists in Ukraine, its military presence in Moldova and Georgia, meddling in Western elections and its involvement in the war in Syria as evidence of Russia’s threat.

He cited the development of new nuclear weapons, which President Vladimir Putin unveiled in a bellicose speech on March 1, as another worrying development.


He also accused Moscow of a “blurring of the line between peace, crisis and war”, which he said was “destabilizing and dangerous”.

Britain’s ambassador to the alliance briefed NATO envoys in the North Atlantic Council on Wednesday, and Stoltenberg said Britain’s National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill would address the Council later on Thursday.

While Stoltenberg stressed there had been no request from London to activate the Western military alliance’s mutual defense clause, he said Russia must be deterred.

“The UK will respond and is responding in a proportionate and measured way … I fully support there is a need for a response, because there must be consequences when we see actions like those in Salisbury,” he said.

NATO has deployed significant ground forces to the Baltic countries and Poland to dissuade Russia from repeating any Crimea-like seizures. But Stoltenberg said there was little for NATO as an alliance to do immediately in response to the nerve agent attack, beyond giving Britain strong political support.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Kevin Liffey)

Spain sees Russian interference in Catalonia separatist vote

Protesters hold the lights of their mobile phones during a demonstration called by pro-independence associations asking for the release of jailed Catalan activists and leaders, in Barcelona, Spain, November 11, 2017.

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Madrid believes Russian-based groups used online social media to heavily promote Catalonia’s independence referendum last month in an attempt to destabilize Spain, Spanish ministers said on Monday.

Spain’s defense and foreign ministers said they had evidence that state and private-sector Russian groups, as well as groups in Venezuela, used Twitter, Facebook and other Internet sites to massively publicize the separatist cause and swing public opinion behind it in the run-up to the Oct. 1 referendum.

Catalonia’s separatist leaders have denied that Russian interference helped them in the vote.

“What we know today is that much of this came from Russian territory,” Spanish Defence Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal said of Russian-based internet support.

“These are groups that, public and private, are trying to influence the situation and create instability in Europe,” she told reporters at a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers in Brussels.

Asked if Madrid was certain of the accusations, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis, also at the meeting, said: “Yes, we have proof.”

Dastis said Spain had detected false accounts on social media, half of which were traced back to Russia and another 30 percent to Venezuela, created to amplify the benefits of the separatist cause by re-publishing messages and posts.

Ramon Tremosa, the EU lawmaker for the PDeCat party of Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, repeated on Monday that Russian interference had played no part in the referendum.

“Those that say Russia is helping Catalonia are those that have helped the Russian fleet in recent years, despite the EU’s boycott,” Tremosa tweeted, referring to Spanish media reports that Spain was allowing Russian warships to refuel at its ports.

Those who voted in the referendum opted overwhelmingly for independence. But turnout was only about 43 percent as Catalans who favor remaining part of Spain mainly boycotted the ballot.

The separatist vote has plunged Spain, the euro zone’s fourth-biggest economy, into its worst constitutional crisis since its return to democracy in the 1970s.

Dastis said he had raised the issue with the Kremlin.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any such interference and accuses the West of a campaign to discredit Russia.

NATO believes Moscow is involved in a deliberately ambiguous strategy of information warfare and disinformation to try to divide the West and break its unity over economic sanctions imposed on Russia following its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia interfered in the U.S. election to try to help President Donald Trump defeat rival Hillary Clinton by hacking and releasing emails and spreading propaganda via social media.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who attended the EU meeting in Brussels, declined to comment on Spain’s accusations, but the alliance’s top commander said last week that Russian interference was a concern.

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparotti said “Russian malign influence” was trying to sway elections and other decisions in the West, describing it as a “destabilization campaign,” although he did not directly address the Catalonia referendum.


(Additional reporting by Angus Berwick in Spain; Editing by Richard Balmforth)