- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2020

American voters must remain vigilant in the face of potential foreign efforts to interfere in the U.S. electoral process, top members of the Trump administration warned Wednesday.

The heads of several federal agencies wrote an editorial published in USA Today calling for a “whole-of-society approach” to combat any attempts to interfere in the 2020 elections.

“As leaders of our government, we are committed to defending our democracy, but we need your help, too,” wrote officials including the heads of the Department of Justice and FBI.

Notwithstanding progress made since 2016, the officials warned the electoral process remains vulnerable partially because of social networks that allow disinformation to disperse.

“Don’t fall prey to disinformation about your election — such as when, where or how to vote — from untrusted sources. State and local government websites are the authoritative sources for this information,” the officials wrote, adding that “an informed and discerning public is a resilient public.”

Elsewhere in the op-ed the officials encouraged the American voting public to “separate facts from falsehoods” by scrutinizing election-related information they encounter online.

“Some foreign governments have a track record of meddling in our affairs by attempting to shape public opinion and voter perceptions. Foreign actors have done this by hacking and dumping private campaign and candidate information on the internet and spreading disinformation and divisive messages on social media,” the officials wrote.

“We cannot prevent all disinformation, foreign propaganda or cyberattacks on our infrastructure. However, together, we can all help to mitigate these threats by exercising care when we share information and by maintaining good cyber hygiene to reduce the risks that malicious cyberattacks will succeed,” they wrote.

The op-ed was signed by Attorney General William P. Barr and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, in addition to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, outgoing acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and Christopher Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA.

The U.S. intelligence community has previously assessed that the 2016 election won by President Trump was targeted by a multifaceted interference campaign operated by Russia, the likes of which included attempted to hack U.S. voting infrastructure and weaponizing social media platforms to spread political disinformation. Moscow has denied responsibility.

Shelby Pierson, the election security threats executive for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, warned last month that other nations are likely to follow suit.

“This is not a Russia-only problem,” Ms. Pierson said at an event hosted by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. “Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, non-state hacktivists all have opportunity, means and potentially motive to come after the United States in the 2020 election to accomplish their goals.”

More recently, Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, voiced concerns in an interview last week about preventing foreign meddling leading up to November’s elections.

“I’m not going to get into anything classified, but I’ll tell your readers point-blank that as of today, what we will see in terms of foreign interference in 2020 is going to make 2016 look like small potatoes,” Mr. Wyden told Fast Company.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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