By LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — The federal government’s counterintelligence chief marked 100 days until the 2020 presidential election with a troubling but expected status report: our foreign adversaries are at it again.
Bill Evanina, the intelligence community’s director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said Friday that, “Today, we see our adversaries seeking to compromise the private communications of U.S. political campaigns, candidates and other political targets.”
“Our adversaries also seek to compromise our election infrastructure,” he continued, “and we continue to monitor malicious cyber actors trying to gain access to U.S. state and federal networks, including those responsible for managing elections.”
In his lengthy statement, Evanina highlighted the work of China, Russia and Iran, but noted that “other nation-states and non-state actors could also do harm to our electoral process.”
The warning harkens back to the 2016 presidential campaign when Russian military intelligence operators engaged in a broadside bombardment of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s campaign and penetrated state election systems.
Perhaps most notably, Evanina noted efforts to “compromise the private communications” of campaigns — a startling echo of Russia’s actions in 2016 to hack and disseminate the private emails of John Podesta, at the time a senior campaign advisor to Clinton.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller leveled indictments against a dozen Russian military intelligence officers for their role in the scheme.
Friday’s warning from Evanina, who is tasked with briefing campaigns on foreign election meddling, comes days after former vice president Joe Biden released his own lengthy condemnation of the Russians, saying he is putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments “on notice.”
“If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government,” Biden wrote.
Evanina expressed confidence in the federal government’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies to quell the impact of foreign actors’ efforts.
Appearing on cable news shortly after the statement was released, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, cast doubt on Evanina’s confident posture and condemned the dearth of specific information provided.
“I don’t have that confidence at all,” Schiff told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I have serious concerns about the statement that was just put out … in the warnings that are given, they are so generic, in some ways, as to be meaningless.”
Schiff accused President Donald Trump of providing adversaries with fodder for their subversion by calling into question the viability of mail-in voting.
“The Russians will look for any divide they can to sow chaos in the United States,” he added. “And what better way to amplify false information about how millions of Americans cast their votes?”
Evanina concluded his statement by “committing to update the American public and other key stakeholders on threats to the election and steps for mitigation.”
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