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Sun Jul 26, 2020, 08:46 PM

American voters deserve facts on outside influence on this election

Four years ago, Russian influence on the American election rocked our politics. Broad concern led United States intelligence agencies to reveal much of what they knew. Today the threat remains, but the attention has faded and the transparency is gone. Wild allegations fill this vacuum, like the claim by President Trump that other countries could print millions of mail ballots. Meanwhile, real evidence of active foreign influence is kept secret. The public hears only vague warnings of ongoing dangers.

Voters should demand actionable intelligence on foreign influence which is targeting the 2020 election. After all, the principal defense remains the public itself. Basic information can help citizens spot hallmarks of foreign manipulation and fact check their own leaders. Who are the main foreign actors? What are their agendas and narratives? The federal government can answer these questions, but it remarkably has chosen not to.

Indeed, as a former intelligence officer who spent years tracking foreign adversaries online, I am simply dismayed by this silence. I am afraid that the coronavirus has only raised the stakes. With campaigns going virtual, foreign trolls and propagandists have new avenues to covertly manipulate political discourse. Yet instead of educating American voters, government leaders resist public testimony. Meanwhile, tens of millions of voters have already cast primary ballots, and the general election now looms.

Just consider what the American people have been told about the major threat of Russia. Over one year ago, the director of national intelligence released a two sentence assessment of Russian influence efforts that said Moscow "will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities, and criticizing" politicians perceived to be against Russia. This very brief statement omitted crucial details, such as how Russian tactics have shifted since 2016 and what the voters have to look out for. A belated update this month gave no new substance.


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