In the run-up to the 2016 election, we called out how the elections, candidates, and the electorate were being targeted by Russia – “Hacking Politics – Political Security in an Election Year.” We didn’t possess any special intelligence collection abilities, nor were we particularly prescient in our analysis. What we did do is listen. Then we dove into the root documents and warnings which were being shared to both the DNC and RNC – as well as all the presidential candidates – by the FBI.

In addition, we watched the pot-stirring which was occurring on social networks, via  bots and trolls. Later we would discover that this manipulation of the social networks and the narrative was also originating from Russia. Their goal, stop the exchange of opinions, ideas and collaborative engagement and foment discord – the louder the invective the better.

Now we find ourselves, together, looking at the mid-term elections in November 2018. Less than 50 days until we collectively vote on November 6th.

Are we ready for Election Day? Not by a long shot

On September 13, 2018, President Trump issued an “Election Security Executive Order.” You can read the full text of the executive order here on the Federal Registry.

In a nutshell the President is calling out Russia (though couched as “any foreign power”) while also declaring a “national emergency to deal with the threat.”

  • The Office of the Director of Intelligence, no later than 45 days after the election – quite the New Year’s Eve present – will produce an “assessment of any information indicating that a foreign government, or any person acting as an agent of or on behalf of a foreign government, has acted with the intent or purpose of interfering with the election.”
  • No later than October 12th, (30 days from the date of the executive order) the President is ordering, “Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence shall develop a framework for the process that will be used to carry out their respective responsibilities.”
  • Should an entity be found to have interfered in the election, the Secretary of the Treasury may impose sanctions.

NYT  Wants americans to report false information

The New York Times, has thrown itself into the fray, given they publish “all the news that is fit to print,” asking their social media audience on Twitter to monitor for false information “being spread deliberately to confuse, mislead, or influence voters ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.” See this tweet below.

Now, as you can imagine, the NYT took some good ribbing, given the number of retractions they have had to make of late within the political milieu. But all joking aside, the NYT also hit the nail on the head. Russia has not taken its foot off the gas in their desire to stoke the flames of discord within the United States.

A recent NPR/Marist poll showed that 33% of Americans believe a foreign country will change midterm votes.

A sobering poll and worrisome result as Russia continues, through their trolls and bots, to take both sides of any high visibility event/discussion and throw kerosene on the fire. All this in hopes that the division will deepen and the hyperbole will increase.

What can we do as members of the electorate?

Discuss differences of opinion with cordiality. Passionate opinions are a must, but disagreeing with one another need not be a disagreeable event.

As you form these opinions, conduct your own fact checks.

But the most important action you can do? That is registering to vote. For many states, the window to do so is closing soon.

Then on November 6, 2018 – exercise your civic responsibility.  Vote.

Related News

Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008).