After the 2016 US elections, media outlets and politicians fed public fears that election security would likely to be compromised by foreign interference in future years, including especially in the 2020 presidential election. A joint statement issued in November 2019 by the Departments of Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the National Security Administration, and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) fostered rampant speculation about potential election interference by China, Russia, and Iran, among others.
Although the joint statement acknowledged that “no evidence of a compromise or disruption to election infrastructure” existed at the time, politicians, pundits, and news outlets have been quick and consistent in pointing fingers towards a broad list of typical foreign threats, as Whitney Webb reported for MintPress News.
In fact, Webb reported, the technologies that these foreign powers might use to meddle in US elections have been developed by “a web of companies with deep ties to Israeli intelligence.”
In a January 4, 2020 report, Webb described a simulation of the 2020 election run by Cybereason. Intended to assess the preparedness of FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Secret Service officials to prevent “bad actors” from undermining the upcoming presidential election, Cybereason’s simulation included one scenario that included cancelation of the election and the declaration of martial law, Webb reported.
As Webb reported on January 28, 2020, a “clear overlap” between Cybereason’s simulation and the intelligence-driven media narrative is “clear cause for concern, especially considering that the technologies that they highlight as ultimately upending the election are dominated by the very same intelligence agencies simulating and crafting that narrative.”
Webb’s MintPress News reports shed light on Cybereason, which is led by former members of Israel’s military intelligence Unit 8200, advised by former top and current officials in both Israeli military intelligence and the CIA, and funded by and partnered with Lockheed Martin, one of the United States’ top weapons manufacturers and government contractors.
Webb’s January 28 report also called into doubt the trustworthiness of Microsoft as a protector of the US against foreign attacks on election integrity. Webb wrote that Microsoft has “clear conflicts of interest with respect to election interference,” noting that Microsoft’s “Defending Democracy” program has produced discredited tools including “NewsGuard” and “ElectionGuard” that have backfired as measures to protect US democracy.
Despite the lack of evidence that China, Russia, or Iran are gearing up to interfere with the 2020 election, news outlets ranging from NBC News to BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone have fed a prevalent media narrative that these nations pose threats to the democratic process in the US. Webb’s MintPress News provide a crucial counterbalance to and refocusing of these myopic reports.
Whitney Webb, “How Government and Media Are Prepping America for a Failed 2020 Election,” Mint Press News, January 28, 2020, https://www.mintpressnews.com/media-israel-intelligence-2020-elections-cyber-security/264361/.
Whitney Webb, “Why a Shadowy Tech Firm with Ties to Israeli Intelligence Is Running Doomsday Election Simulations,” MintPress News, January 4, 2020, https://www.mintpressnews.com/cybereason-israel-tech-firm-doomsday-election-simulations/263886/.
Student Researcher: Will Krulak (University of Vermont)
Faculty Advisor: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)