Media Mention

Cordero: Intelligence officials are now warning about election interference

October 22, 2020

Note: this piece was originally published in The Washington Post, and was written by Checks & Balances member Carrie Cordero. 

Early voting is well underway. Intelligence community and election security leaders know time is running out to get the right amount of accurate information out to the public to prevent a foreign adversary from influencing voters. Wednesday’s joint news appearance during television prime time by top intelligence and law enforcement officials was the latest and most dramatic step yet to warn Americans in real time about foreign governments’ efforts to influence the election. It took days, not weeks or months, for national security officials to determine who was behind the activities and communicate that information to the public. The coordinated news appearance also had the effect of letting adversaries know in a very public way that the U.S. government knows what they’re up to.

Leading up to the 2016 election, the Obama administration was reluctant to release information publicly about the threat of foreign interference, particularly Russian operations. There were a variety of legitimate reasons for that — including, not insignificantly, the risk that releasing information would be viewed as politicizing intelligence, and more specifically, selectively declassifying information for the purpose of aiding Hillary Clinton’s campaign. At the time, Russian election interference activities were of such a scope and scale that they presented somewhat of a novel threat, and the idea of providing transparency about it was new, too. As a result, the October 2016 joint assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came late in the election cycle and was overshadowed by competing events and distractions.

This year, the Trump administration can plead neither ignorance nor unpreparedness for attempted foreign interference in the election. And with a president who has for four years denied that Russia interfered in the 2016 election despite a nonpartisan special counsel investigation and a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation both unequivocally stating the opposite, intelligence community professionals are walking a tightrope.

Continue reading at The Washington Post.