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US cyber official says there’s no ‘specific’ threat to election, but worries about harassment and intimidation


There are no ‘specific or credible’ threats to disrupt election infrastructure in this year’s midterm contests, one of the country’s top cybersecurity officials said Sunday, even though the government federal remains concerned about attempts — both online and in person — to interfere with voting.

“It’s a very complex threat environment. You have cyber threats, you have insider threats, you have rampant disinformation, and yes, very disturbingly, you have threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against election officials, polling stations, and voters,” said Jen Easterly, director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, told CBS.

“Let’s be very clear,” Easterly said, “this has to stop.”

This election year threat assessment comes as tensions mount over the potential for violence surrounding this year’s election, fueled in part by online extremism and fraudulent election security information.

The warnings took on alarming urgency on Friday, when a man who had previously posted memes and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election allegedly attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband at their home in California.

President Joe Biden, voting early in his home state of Delaware, warned on Saturday that conspiracies and misinformation online were directly linked to real-life violence like the attack on Paul Pelosi.

“You can’t condemn the violence unless you condemn these people who claim the election is not real,” he said outside a polling station. “The conversation needs to stop. This is the problem.”

On Friday, federal officials warned that domestic violent extremists pose an increased threat to the 2022 midterm elections in a joint intelligence assessment sent to state and local officials and obtained by CNN.

The bulletin, released by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the United States Capitol Police and the National Counterterrorism Center, says perceptions of voter fraud will likely lead to heightened threats of violence. The bulletin does not list any specific credible threat.

Ongoing perceptions of voter fraud related to the 2020 general election continue to contribute to the radicalization of some violent extremists and “would likely increase their sensitivity to any new claims perceived to reaffirm their belief that US elections are corrupt,” according to the assessment.

Easterly said on Sunday that election misinformation “can be used to sow discord which can undermine trust in the integrity of elections, and which can be used to incite violence.”

“We’ve seen Russia, we’ve seen Iran, we’ve seen China, using the influence operations playbook,” she told CBS. “That’s why it’s so important for Americans to realize that they need to build resilience in the face of this.”

The FBI said earlier this month that agents and organizations affiliated with the Russian and Chinese governments are promoting disinformation about the integrity of US elections. The assessment highlighted how the explosion of election conspiracy theories in the United States has created fertile ground for foreign agents since former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election defeat.

Some election officials called on CISA to do more to help them fight misinformation and protect election officials. CISA rejected a multi-million contractor proposal to protect election workers from harassment in part because of legal concerns and questions about the plan’s effectiveness, CNN reported last month.

In the weeks since CNN reported that election officials had called on CISA to do more to help them fight misinformation, Easterly, the agency’s director, tweeted and spoke publicly about election security at several occasions.

On Election Day, Easterly said his agency would be in “direct communication with all state and local election officials whose job it is to organize and administer elections. We will work to share information, and we will work to be able to respond to whatever is happening. »


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