back to article You think election meddling is bad now? Buckle up for 2020, US intel chief tells Congress

Attacks intended to sway the outcome of the 2020 US Presidential election are probably already underway, according to the nation's head of intelligence. Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, told the the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that China, Russia, and Iran are most likely already well into their …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Evil Iranians

    They truly are the centre of the axis of evil, even resorting to using social media to improve the public image of the country.

    I have experienced similar cyber attacks from Tourism USA.

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Social Media Again????

    Gee... I wonder what company that would be??? Seems said company no longer wants independent political ad reviews. Is there a connection? Maybe I'm just too paranoid and cynical here.

  3. Oengus

    Oz Elections coming

    In Oz we have a federal election coming up in May this year. It will be interesting to monitor the fake news etc. during the lead up to it. We are already being bombarded with political ads and the election date hasn't even been announced yet.

    1. Winkypop Silver badge

      Re: Oz Elections coming

      We even have our very own Trump!

      1. Oengus

        Re: Oz Elections coming

        Yes, complete with the "Make Australia Great" slogan. The big difference between Clive and Trump is Clive will never be PM as he is not associated with one of the two majors. As soon as I saw the ad I wondered if he had hired Trump's campaign director... He even resurrected the name of a political party that was dissolved in 1945.

        1. Winkypop Silver badge

          Re: Oz Elections coming

          To be honest, neither should Trump (be POTUS)...

    2. Rustbucket

      Re: Oz Elections coming

      Apart from Palmer, we're bombarded with political ads from the government under the guise of PSAs, paid for with OUR money. On TV yesterday someone said the government had spent AUD $140 million since the start of the year on TV advertising.

      Both parties do this a bit when they are in power, but the right wing coalition are by far the worst, I'd guess by a margin of 10 or 20 times. Guys should go to jail.

  4. redpawn Silver badge

    Can't Wait

    for CGI audio and video showing all sorts of nastiness without enough time or resources to refute before the election. After the election we'll once again be told the misinformation had no effect on the outcome, as Americans (don't laugh) are to smart to be fooled by such things.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: Can't Wait

      [...] as Americans (don't laugh) are to smart to be fooled by such things.

      See icon....

    2. Spamfast

      Re: Can't Wait

      are to smart

      Like the comment. But pedantry is a curse. "too smart" please.

      1. redpawn Silver badge

        Re: Can't Wait

        I no that.

        1. Spamfast

          Re: Can't Wait

          Eye shod of guessed ewe mite.

  5. GeekBoy3000


    Of course the good old USA has never meddled in other countries elections or helped topple a government.... Oh wait, that's right it's OK when you're the good guys

    1. James 51

      Re: Karma

      It's bad no matter who is doing it.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: Karma

        Sadly I think the real number of folks trying is a lot bigger than we're aware of and it's more a matter of some being able to hide it better than others.

      2. Fungus Bob

        Re: Karma

        Yeah, look what happened last time.

      3. Trixr

        Re: Karma


  6. batfink Silver badge

    What about the internal actors?

    I note that Mr Coats doesn't give us any idea about the proportion of election meddling that they expect from external players vs the home-grown bullshit, deep fakes, trolling etc that Americans themselves will be throwing at the campaign.

    Judging by the info we have on the amount of money spent by the Filthy Russkies trying to influence the last result, I suspect that the external interference will be a tiny speck in the overall bullshit volume.

  7. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Hacking every 2 minutes

    Every two minutes we see a mail server login attempt from an IP that geo-locates in Russia or Iran, there are frequent LinkedIn connection requests from Iran and whenever anyone accepts a connection request it's followed by an email to sales containing urgent_purchase_order.doc.exe ... we're having so much fun swatting all this every couple of minutes.

  8. Chris the bean counter

    Taiwan cyber spying

    I expect both China and Taiwan spies have heavily infiltrated each others agencies and key companies.

    China is very vulnerable to hacking given its centralised payment and communication systems. Authoritarian regimes are also surprisingly fragile.

    Would be interesting what cooperation there is between Taiwan and the Five Eyes

    1. Spamfast

      Re: Taiwan cyber spying

      Larry Niven's State? Was Peerssa right about the fragility of totalitarianism?

      But be careful - Orwell's vision couldn't last. Huxley's could.

  9. DeeCee

    " try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine US alliances and partnerships"

    isnt that what they elected Trump for?

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Who's "they", Kimosabe?

      1. DeeCee

        they" as people living in U.S.(and Kremlin), as im living in neither of those places and cant vote in U.S. elections its "they" . though it was electoral college(why something so archaic exists is beyond me, how it can be called "democracy" when person with least votes win) that put him in place, because more people voted for the second worst choice.

        1. TomG

          Anytime you see the word "democracy" used to describe the governmental system of the USA you should mentally replace that word with the word"republic". The President and Vice President ARE NOT elected by the people. They are elected by the Electors in the Electoral College. This is an effective constraint placed in the Constitution by the founding fathers. If this procedure were to be removed and the election of the President and Vice President were determined by direct voting, the five large states would rule the voting. The Electoral College gives the smaller states (in population) some influence.

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            @TomG -- Vast oversimplification

            Tom, I'll assume for the time being that you are from the Left side of the pond, and that your statement is meant to be pedantic for the Right Pondians in the audience.

            In the late 18th Century, you might indeed have been right, and that was one of the justifications (note I did not say 'reasons') for the Electoral College. In the 21st Century, this just doesn't pass the smell test. Per this Wikipedia article, the top 5 most populous states are: California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania (just edging out Illinois). There is no way that these five states could single handedly elect a president via the Electoral College. For one, look at the math(s). It takes 270 electoral votes to elect a President; these 5 states hold 171 Electors. They are 100 short; it would take the top 12 states to get to that magic number. And even then, the top 12 states (add, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia to the above list) still could not elect the President, because there is no way in God's Green Earth that these 12 states would all deliver all their Electors for the same candidate (unless, of course, the Electors were all under duress -- but I digress). New York and Texas delivering all their electors for the same person?!? Shirley, you jest!

            1. croc

              Re: @TomG -- Vast oversimplification

              Yes, but... You only need to buy one, two tops, Electoral College Representatives to win the prize...

              The original idea was that "\the people Sir, are a great beast" Paraphrase from Alex. Hamilton... So, once all the votes were in, the states appointed a representative to go to Washington, meet, and hammer out who should actually be the next Pres... Irrespective of who actually won by popular vote. Kept out the riff raff you see. This was indeed a ruling made for Alex to get him to sign off on the continuance of slavery.

              But then, history is all bullshit anyway and only my first sentence has any veritas....

        2. M.V. Lipvig

          The purpose of the Electoral College is to make sure the entire nation is represented. If it was a direct vote, the candidates would only need to campaign in and win the 10 largest cities to win the election, and not pay any attention at all to the more rural areas. I fully support our Electoral College, even if it means my candidate loses with more popular votes.

          Besides, the candidates know how the race is won, and know what they must do to win. A certain coronated candidate chose to ignore several states, expecting them to side with her because she thought she owned them. Turns out that people aren't property, and if they don't like what you say they'll switch party alliance that day. Said candidate lost at least one state that traditionally voted for her party by telling them that not only were they going to stay unemployed, she was going to make their job market even worse by shutting down one of that state's major industries.

  10. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    I'm not quite sure why this is surprising...

    Oh the irony... a country that thinks of itself as "world police", but hypocritically is just as corrupt and ruined (both internally and politically) as any Afghanistan or Iran; is now whining that it itself is being exploited by corrupt actors?

    Lol... but why is that a surprise???

    1. Eddy Ito

      Re: I'm not quite sure why this is surprising...

      A large number of American's don't think of ourselves as "world police" and would be happy to be out of that role. Unfortunately there is a very vocal minority who insists we need to either "help" certain other countries or "protect ourselves" from largely those same countries. Inevitably as a result of the ensuing marketing campaign we wind up in yet another clusterfsck where we don't belong trying to bring a form of democracy we don't use to countries that only a few pols and celebrities pretend to care about. All so they can be seen as doing something to save the great unwashed1, most of whom don't need saving in the first place.

      1. The great unwashed being either here for the "protect ourselves" group or there for the "helping" group.

    2. GnuTzu

      Re: I'm not quite sure why this is surprising...

      Yes, as Eddy Ito says, we are aware that many see us as the "World police", and there are a whole lot of us that are very unhappy about that pejorative view. Yet, we understand where it comes from. Insert concepts like Military Industrial Complex here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm not quite sure why this is surprising...

        We are the World Police, ask anyone. I think Russia and China are on the come up in the department. We will make an unholy Trinity to enslave.... I mean protect people.

      2. TomG

        Re: I'm not quite sure why this is surprising...

        In addition to the Military Industrial Complex, you can add the countries that don't want to provide for their own defense, instead, letting the USA provide it. Preferring to use their revenue (and aid from the USA) to pay for their social programs.

    3. M.V. Lipvig

      Re: I'm not quite sure why this is surprising...

      Just our government thinks that, not us. Funny how no matter who gets elected on what platform though, that they get onboard with the whole world police idea.

      Were it up to me, our military wouldn't be used as cops. We'd protect only our direct interests with devastating force but if it didn't affect us we wouldn't stick our nose in it. Of course, if asked to intervene we might, provided it aligned with our interests and the government asking for our help paid 110 percent of our costs in supporting their needs. There wouldn't be any more of this "spend billions, no need to thank us ma'am" crap. My tax bill would be a lot lower if I wasn't paying to defend about 50 nations around the world.

  11. Flywheel Silver badge

    Deep Fakes you say?

    Deep Fakes in the next election? My dear chap, they're already here, which is why we're in such a jolly old mess...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe it won't be as damaging if one of the candidates isn't helping them meddle.

    Anon because I'm pretty sure the Trumpites will be rabid.

    1. M.V. Lipvig

      Few voted for Trump because they like him, he was just better than the alternative. In the primary, he stood out amongst a mess of global elitists by saying he would put America first, to an electorate tired of global elitists sticking us in messes we wanted no part of. By the time the rest of them realized how well his position was being received vs theirs, it was too late for them to change over Not to menton, with so many running it didn't take a lot for him to win. My candidate didn't win. In the general, he was against a person so vile people would have voted for anyone. People had enough of a woman who was caught selling access as Secretary of State, who was directly responsible for the loss of a US Embassy, and who kept US secrets on a personal, unsecure server for her own personal convenience. We also saw what the Clintons did in Arkansas and what they did the last time they lived in the White House. If the Democrats had run ANYONE ELSE, Trump would have lost. The moment the Democrats officially decided that Clinton was their candidate, whoever won the Republican primarybwas guaranteed to win the election.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        While I'm inclined to agree with most of your points, Bill Clinton actually did a fairly decent job as President. If you ignore his personal failings - which really had nothing to do with how well he did the job - there's actually not a whole lot to complain about there.

        As far as Hillary, I'm inclined to agree that running her certainly helped Trump's chances. Hillary vs Trump was a nightmare ticket the likes of which I never thought I'd see and which convinced me that both major parties had lost their damned minds. I voted for Cthulhu. He was the least evil being I saw any campaign material for in 2016.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reality is

    The reality is that the people the Media is paid to endorse, and those paying them are the real threats to the world. There is nothing that can stop them. Greedy evil people rule the world, they do the evil things peaceful people won't.

  14. Someone Else Silver badge

    And yet...

    ...our Douchebag-in-Chief doesn't care to lift a finger to stop it.

    Actually he does care...he expects to benefit from it, just like in the last election....

    1. InsaneGeek

      Re: And yet...

      Yeah the last election in 2018 election? When the Democrats used the same false-flag tactics in Alabama against a Republican that they denounce the Russians for using and arresting people?

  15. cutterman

    Let's be careful out there

    You say, "Let's be careful out there"

    I sort of prefer the original ending of the briefing in the series (before they went all soft).

    "Let's do it to them, before they do it to us..."

    Mac :-)

    1. Eddy Ito

      Re: Let's be careful out there

      That's kind of why I'm hopeful. Once all the deep fakes and meddling are known common practices I think people will become more skeptical of everything they see and hear and less prone to the knee jerk bloviating that so saturates anti-social media. I'm also hopeful that people will see the blatant political hyperbole for theatrical histrionics it is.

      Then again, I'm hopeful I'll find a valid winning lottery ticket in my jacket pocket even though I haven't bought one for years.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Translating this from Washingtonese to English: Please, please, please increase my budget 10 fold and get rid of any oversight or need to obtain warrants to do what we want to do. It is the only way to keep you safe.

  17. croc

    Just to raise a bit of a stink....

    Trump is Putin's bitch.

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