The 2022 US Midterm Elections’ Top Security Issue: Death Threats

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In preparation in the 2018 midterm elections in the United States, law enforcement, intelligence and election officials were on high alert for digital attacks and influence operations after Russia demonstrated the reality of these threats by pointing out in the 2016 presidential election. Six years later, the threat of hacking and malicious foreign influence continues, but 2022 is a different time and a new major risk has arisen: threats to physical security for election officials, their families and their jobs.

In July 2021, the Department of Justice launched a working group to counter threats to election workers, and the U.S. Electoral Assistance Commission published a safety guide for election professionals. But in public comments this week, lawmakers, top national security officials and election administrators themselves expressed concern that misinformation about the security and validity of the U.S. vote would continue to shape a new picture of ‘medium-term threats.

“In New Mexico, conspiracies over our voting and election systems have taken a certain part of the electorate and made people act,” said New Mexico Secretary of State and Chief Electoral Officer Maggie Toulouse Oliver before the National Security Committee of the House of Representatives. yesterday. “During the 2020 election cycle, I was worried and had to leave home for weeks under the protection of the state police. Since 2020, my office has certainly experienced an increase in the monitoring of social media, the harmed emails and calls to our office and other communications that reproduce the misinformation that circulates widely in the national discourse.But more recently, especially since our June 2022 primary election, my office has experienced serious enough threats such as to be derived from law enforcement. “

In a discussion Tuesday on the security of the midterm elections at the Fordham International Conference on Cybersecurity in New York City, FBI Director Christopher Wray and NSA Director Paul Nakasone emphasized that intelligence federal law enforcement and law enforcement see foreign opponents who have been active during the last U.S. election – including Russia, China, and Iran – as potential threats in the face of the mid-2022 term. threats against election workers now appear at the top of his list.

“We’re … positioning ourselves to better understand our opponents, so we have a number of operations we’re doing now and in the future as we get closer to fall,” Nakasone said Tuesday. “But I think the other part is that this is not episodic, this for us is a persistent commitment that we have over time, in terms of being able to understand where our opponents are, what they are trying to do., Where we have. to impact them, understanding how they are improving. “

When asked how the FBI handles misinformation that stems from foreign-influenced operations but is eventually incorporated into the national psyche, Wray said the Office simply has a set of enforcement warrants. around the election he focuses on holding.

“We are not the truth police,” he told the conference. “It does not mean that there is no important role in calling falsehood versus truth, it’s just that our contributions are quite specific. We are pointing to foreign malignant influence. We are investigating malicious cyberactors, whether foreign or not, who target the election infrastructure, hence cyber activity. We’re investigating federal election crimes, and that spans everything from campaign funding violations, to voter fraud and repression, to something we’ve seen an alarming amount over the last stage: threats of violence against voters. election workers, which we “will not tolerate.”

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