U.S. Intelligence Says Iran, Russia Carried Out Influence Operations During 2020 Election
By RFE/RL March 16, 2021
Russia and Iran both conducted misinformation operations to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, according to a U.S. intelligence report.
The unclassified 15-page report, published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on March 16, said there were no indications foreign actors attempted to influence technical aspects of the U.S. election, such as meddling with ballots or voter tabulation.
But it assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin "authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the United States."
Unlike during Russian meddling in the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence did not observe Russian cyber-action to gain access to election infrastructure. Instead, the report said the Russian state and its proxies tried to impact U.S. public perceptions.
Moscow's strategy primarily revolved around using "proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives" to U.S. media, officials, and prominent individuals, "including some close to former President Trump and his administration," the report said.
Meanwhile, Iran also carried out "a multi-pronged covert influence campaign" to damage Trump's reelection campaign, but did not actively promote Biden.
The goal of Iran's actions was to undermine confidence in the U.S. election and institutions and foster divisions within society, the report said.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "authorized the campaign and Iran's military and intelligence services implemented it using overt and covert messaging and cyber-operations," the report said.
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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