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DHS Homeland Threat Analysis Identifies Russian Election Meddling Unlike China and Iran Reporting

October 18th, 2020 09:30

As the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ed ear­li­er, the US Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty has released its Octo­ber 2020 “Home­land Threat Assess­ment” which, in con­trast to its report­ing on Chi­na and Iran, does iden­ti­fy Russ­ian efforts tar­get­ing the upcom­ing US elec­tions. Accord­ing to the DHS report:

For­eign influ­ence activ­i­ty will tar­get U.S. for­eign and domes­tic pol­i­cy, inter­na­tion­al events such as COVID-19, and demo­c­ra­t­ic process­es and insti­tu­tions, includ­ing the 2020 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Rus­sia is the like­ly pri­ma­ry covert influ­ence actor and pur­vey­or of dis­in­for­ma­tion and mis­in­for­ma­tion with­in the Home­land. We assess that Moscow’s pri­ma­ry objec­tive is to increase its glob­al stand­ing and influ­ence by weak­en­ing America—domestically and abroad—through efforts to sow dis­cord, dis­tract, shape pub­lic sen­ti­ment, and under­mine trust in West­ern demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions and processes.

The report goes on to iden­ti­fy four areas in which it says Rus­sia will con­tin­ue to “ampli­fy U.S. Socio-Polit­i­cal Division”:

  • Russ­ian influ­ence actors will con­tin­ue using overt and covert meth­ods to aggra­vate social and racial ten­sions, under­mine trust in U. S. author­i­ties, stoke polit­i­cal resent­ment, and crit­i­cize politi­cians who Moscow views as anti-Rus­sia. Although some of this activ­i­ty might be framed in the con­text of the U. S. election—seemingly in sup­port of or oppo­si­tion to polit­i­cal can­di­dates— we assess that Moscow’s over­ar­ch­ing objec­tive is to weak­en the Unit­ed States through dis­cord, divi­sion, and dis­trac­tion in hopes that Amer­i­ca becomes less able to chal­lenge Russia’s strate­gic objectives.
  • Russ­ian influ­ence actors will engage in media manipulation—across social media plat­forms, proxywebsites4, and tra­di­tion­al media, to include state-con­trolled outlets—to exac­er­bate U. S. social, polit­i­cal, racial, and cul­tur­al fault lines.
  • Russ­ian actors will attempt to under­mine nation­al uni­ty and sow seeds of dis­cord that exploit per­ceived griev­ances with­in minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties, espe­cial­ly among African Amer­i­cans. Russ­ian influ­ence actors often mim­ic tar­get audi­ences and ampli­fy both sides of divi­sive issues to max­i­mize dis­cord, tai­lor­ing mes­sag­ing to spe­cif­ic com­mu­ni­ties to“push and pull” them in dif­fer­ent ways.
  • The Russ­ian gov­ern­ment pro­mul­gates mis­in­for­ma­tion, threats, and nar­ra­tives intend­ed to incite pan­ic or ani­mos­i­ty among social and polit­i­cal groups. For exam­ple, Russ­ian actors ampli­fied nar­ra­tives such as U. S. law enforce­ment ignor­ing ICE deten­tion requests and releas­ing an ille­gal immi­grant accused of rape; assaults on sup­port­ers and oppo­nents of the Pres­i­dent; and por­tray­als of U. S. law enforce­ment as racial­ly biased. Russ­ian influ­ence actors also have exploit­ed nation­al tragedies, such as the 2017 mass shoot­ing in Las Vegas, and protest movements—sometimes mag­ni­fy­ing both a protest and a counter-protest—such as the 2017 protest activ­i­ty in Charlottesville

In addi­tion, and this time sim­i­lar to its report­ing on Chi­na and Iran, the DHS report dis­cuss­es Russ­ian influ­ence oper­a­tions in con­nec­tion with the COVID-19 pandemic:

Russ­ian online influ­ence actors are advanc­ing mis­lead­ing or (what they per­ceive as) inflam­ma­to­ry nar­ra­tives about the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic prob­a­bly to stoke fear, under­mine the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the U.S. gov­ern­ment, and weak­en glob­al per­cep­tions of Amer­i­ca. Moscow prob­a­bly will study the Amer­i­can pub­lic’s reac­tion to its COVID-19 dis­in­for­ma­tion to improve future influ­ence cam­paigns aimed at shak­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in Wash­ing­ton, which it can unleash oppor­tunis­ti­cal­ly dur­ing a cri­sis, hos­til­i­ties, or a peri­od of degrad­ed relations:

  • Russ­ian online influ­ence actors have claimed that the U.S. Pres­i­dent is inca­pable of man­ag­ing the COVID-19 cri­sis and sought to exac­er­bate pub­lic con­cerns by ampli­fy­ing con­tent crit­i­cal of the U.S. response to the pub­lic health cri­sis and the eco­nom­ic down­turn. In con­trast, the actors high­light­ed Chi­na’s and Rus­si­a’s alleged suc­cess against the COVID-19 out­break and praised Pres­i­dent Putin’s COVID-19 plan and Rus­si­a’s ample sup­ply of tests.
  • Russ­ian online influ­ence actors spread mis­in­for­ma­tion and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the ori­gin of COVID-19, claim­ing it is a U.S.-engineered bio­log­i­cal weapon that U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cials spread in China.

As we have not­ed else­where, the DHS report assess­es that “Rus­sia is the like­ly pri­ma­ry covert influ­ence actor and pur­vey­or of dis­in­for­ma­tion and mis­in­for­ma­tion with­in the Home­land.” The GIOR notes that, as we report­ed ear­li­er, is in direct con­tra­dic­tions to a recent state­ment by the US Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor that Chi­na that was the most active of the coun­tries try­ing to inter­fere in the upcom­ing US elections.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) has been report­ing exten­sive­ly on Russ­ian infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions aimed at dis­rupt­ing the US elec­tions and in favor of Don­ald Trump.