Iran utilized media bias in order to conduct a disinformation campaign aimed at the Trump campaign according to senior intelligence officials.
In a Justice Department press conference Wednesday evening, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray highlighted an attempt by the Islamic Republic of Iran to manipulate U.S. voters.
Using purloined voter registration lists, the Iranians allegedly sent intimidating emails to Democratic Party registered voters. The e-mails, sent from a fake e-mail address “firstname.lastname@example.org” claimed that the Proud Boys would use violence against those who didn’t vote for Trump.
The Proud Boys, a right-wing group best known for its public clashes with Antifa at demonstrations around the country, were brought to national attention when former Vice President Joe Biden interjected the group’s name into the first debate, after moderator Chris Wallace demanded the President denounce white supremacist groups. The President urged the Proud Boys to “stand back” and let U.S. law enforcement respond to left-wing violence. Multiple media outlets later attempted to paint the President’s comments as somehow promoting Proud Boy activity.
Name checking the relatively small organization suggests the Iranian operation had a sophisticated understanding of the current political environment.
As a senior intelligence official told The Federalist, the “Media did exactly what Iran knew they would do. They assumed fake ‘Proud Boys’ e-mails were real, then used them to attack Trump.”
The Iranian operation creates further risk of election instability as left-wing Antifa-linked groups have claimed Trump would rely on “white supremacists” and “armed militias” to remain in power as justification for preparing massive post-election disruptions.
Since the 2016 election, media outlets have purported to emphasize detecting and preventing foreign disinformation campaigns. Yet through increasingly relentless partisanship, media behavior has become exceedingly predictable creating an easier environment for foreign states to insert disinformation.
As in the case of the Iranian “Proud Boys” false flag op, most disinformation efforts by foreign states around the election will be relatively small scale and lack significant impact absent media amplification. The successful and rapid exposure of this operation represents a rare but important win by the intelligence community in interdicting foreign active measures.
Kyle Shideler is the Director and Senior Analyst for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the Center for Security Policy. Mr. Shideler specializes in Islamist groups operating in the United States, having spent over a decade researching and writing on their history, doctrine, and impact. Read his complete bio here. Follow Shideler on Twitter at @ShidelerK. View all posts by Kyle Shideler
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