May 15, 2024 - Politics & Policy

U.S. seeing "increasing" number of threats to election, intelligence chief says

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines before a Senate committee on May 2.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines before a Senate committee on May 2. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Russia, China and Iran remain the country's most significant foreign election threats, though the U.S. has seen an "increasing" number of threats from other actors, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

The big picture: The most concerning threat to this year's election are those against election workers which often stem from false narratives about the 2020 election, Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CSIS) told lawmakers.

  • Both Haines and Easterly said the federal government's ability to protect elections has increased in recent years and that it has never been more prepared.
  • Easterly said election workers have resigned over threats they received.
  • "Such claims are corrosive to the sacred foundations of our democracy," Easterly said, "and they have led to harassment and threats of violence against election officials of both parties and their families."

Zoom out: Haines said Russia remains the most active foreign threat to elections with the goals of eroding trust in U.S. institutions, exacerbating societal divides and reducing American support for Ukraine.

  • She said China has a sophisticated influence apparatus but it did not deploy it in the 2020 presidential election and there has been no indication it will do so this election.
  • China has targeted candidates from both political parties in previous elections to generate support for its foreign policy initiatives, like its territorial claims in Taiwan and Tibet.

The big picture: The intelligence community said earlier this week that threats against election workers have been "supercharged" by new technologies, including artificial intelligence.

  • This election, generative AI has also been used to damage campaigns, including a fake robocall campaign using President Biden's voice to discourage votes in New Hampshire's primary in February.
  • The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday passed three bills to protect elections against deceptive AI, while a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a roadmap for how Congress should regulate AI that same day.

Go deeper: The split reality of election threats on Capitol Hill

Go deeper