UNITED STATES NEWS

Iran encourages Gaza war protests in US to stoke outrage and distrust, intelligence chief says

Jul 9, 2024, 2:33 PM

FILE - People walk past the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at the University of Pennsylvania in Philade...

FILE - People walk past the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. In the wake of pro-Palestinian protesters on college campuses calling for universities to divest from Israel, Pennsylvania’s state Senate on Thursday, June 27, 2024, approved legislation that would block state aid from going to any university that boycotts or divests from Israel. (Monica Herndon/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Monica Herndon/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Iranian government is covertly encouraging American campus protests over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza in a bid to stoke outrage ahead of the fall election, the nation’s top intelligence official said Tuesday.

Using social media platforms popular in the U.S., groups linked to Tehran have posed as online activists, encouraged campus protests and have provided financial support to some protest groups, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in a statement.

“Iran is becoming increasingly aggressive in their foreign influence efforts, seeking to stoke discord and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions,” Haines said.

This effort noted by the top U.S. intelligence official is the latest evidence that America’s adversaries are harnessing the internet to warp domestic debates and widen political divides ahead of the election.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it was important to warn Americans to help them “guard against efforts by foreign powers to take advantage of or coopt their legitimate protest activities.”

She also warned Iran that “meddling in our politics and seeking to stoke division is unacceptable.”

In recent years, Iran, Russia and China have all refined their abilities to use online bots and networks of fake social media accounts to amplify divisive debates within the U.S. over immigration, shootings by police, COVID-19, environmental catastrophes, and even Chinese spy balloons.

In most cases, these influence campaigns exploit existing social conflicts, and Haines noted Tuesday that Americans participating in protests over Israel’s conduct in Gaza have a right to express their views. But she said Americans need to know when foreign actors are trying to meddle in domestic American politics.

“Americans who are being targeted by this Iranian campaign may not be aware that they are interacting with or receiving support from a foreign government,” Haines said.

Demonstrations over Israel’s offensives in Gaza emerged on campuses across the country in recent months. The protests quickly became a factor in political campaigns and prompted concerns about antisemitism and the role of “outside agitators ” as well as worries about a larger regional conflict between Israel and Iran.

Iran isn’t the only nation seeking to influence American discourse ahead of the 2024 election. During a briefing with reporters Tuesday, intelligence officials said America’s adversaries will look to harness the latest artificial intelligence to dramatically expand the reach and penetration of election misinformation.

The officials — from agencies including the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — spoke with reporters on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the office of the director.

Russia remains the greatest threat, according to the officials, who said the Kremlin is mounting a government-wide effort to spread election disinformation ahead of the 2024 race. Russia has already sought to exploit debates over immigration as part of its strategy to undermine international support for Ukraine.

Russia is also seeking to cover its tracks by laundering its disinformation through supposedly independent news sites and American influencers who may not know they are parroting Russian talking points.

The officials declined to answer directly when asked if Russia preferred a particular presidential candidate but pointedly noted that the country’s preference remained unchanged from prior election cycles, when Russia was assessed by the U.S. intelligence community to have worked to try to get Republican candidate Donald Trump elected.

While China mounted a sprawling disinformation campaign ahead of Taiwan’s recent election, the nation has been more cautious in its use of disinformation targeting Americans this year. Officials said Tuesday that China shows no indication that it will try to influence the presidential race.

China, one official said, doesn’t see a benefit in choosing between candidates both seen as trying to curb its power.

Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said the U.S. may be more vulnerable to foreign disinformation this year than it was before the 2020 election. He thanked the intelligence community for holding Tuesday’s briefing as a way to inform the public about the threat.

“Social media, in particular, continues to be a popular vector for foreign covert influence attempts, and our adversaries remain focused on stoking social, racial, and political tensions among Americans,” said Warner, D-Virginia.

___

Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed from Washington.

United States News

FILE - A copy of the Ten Commandments is posted along with other historical documents in a hallway ...

Associated Press

Ten Commandments won’t go in Louisiana classrooms until at least November as lawsuit plays out

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana will delay implementing a requirement that the Ten Commandments be placed in all of the state’s public school classrooms until at least November, according to an agreement approved by a federal judge Friday. A lawsuit was filed in June by parents of Louisiana public school children with various religious […]

15 minutes ago

This image from U.S. Capitol Police security video and contained in the government's sentencing mem...

Associated Press

Marine accused of flashing a Nazi salute during the Capitol riot gets almost 5 years in prison

A Marine who stormed the U.S. Capitol and apparently flashed a Nazi salute in front of the building was sentenced on Friday to nearly five years in prison. Tyler Bradley Dykes, of South Carolina, was an active-duty Marine when he grabbed a police riot shield from the hands of two police officers and used it […]

27 minutes ago

Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. JD Vance arrives with his wife Usha Chilukuri Vance at ...

Associated Press

What Usha Vance’s rise to prominence means to other South Asian and Hindu Americans

Usha Chilukuri Vance, entered the spotlight this week as the wife of JD Vance, former President Trump’s running mate in the 2024 presidential election. Her rise comes at a time when, across the aisle, there’s another prominent figure of South Asian descent: Vice President Kamala Harris, the nation’s first woman and person of color in […]

53 minutes ago

FILE - Steam billows from a coal-fired power plant Nov. 18, 2021, in Craig, Colo. A federal appeals...

Associated Press

US appeals court allows EPA rule on coal-fired power plants to remain in place amid legal challenges

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a victory for President Joe Biden’s administration, a federal appeals court on Friday ruled that a new federal regulation aimed at limiting planet-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants can remain in force as legal challenges continue. Industry groups and some Republican-led states had asked the court to block the Environmental Protection […]

1 hour ago

FILE - An eBay app is shown on a mobile phone, July 11, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Fil...

Associated Press

Member of eBay security team sentenced in harassment scheme involving bloody Halloween pig mask

BOSTON (AP) — The former senior manager of special operations for eBay Inc.’s. global security team was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Boston for his role in a cyberstalking campaign that included sending a preserved fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse to a […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Some convictions overturned in terrorism case against Muslim scholar from Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A judge has overturned a conviction carrying a life sentence for an Islamic scholar from Virginia who was found guilty of soliciting treason after the Sept. 11 attacks for encouraging followers to fight against the U.S. in Afghanistan. The ruling issued Thursday from U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema overturns three of […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

Iran encourages Gaza war protests in US to stoke outrage and distrust, intelligence chief says