In this episode of Intelligence Matters, host Michael Morell speaks with ASD Director Laura Rosenberger. Rosenberger details the breadth of foreign interference threats the U.S. faces ahead of the 2020 presidential election from known actors like Russia, China, Iran, and others. Morell and Rosenberger assess the preparedness of the U.S. to respond to those threats and the overall resilience of the public in the face of increasingly sophisticated disinformation campaigns. They also examine whether the U.S. should consider responding to those campaigns in kind.
“So the one thing I want to kind of build context for here is that, I think in the U.S. we’ve often talked about disinformation or information operations in the context of elections, which is what we’re going to come to. But these kinds of operations are actually broader tools for authoritarian regimes in particular, or undemocratic actors to use the information environment for either geopolitical gain or commercial gain or, you know, basically exercising some form of leverage and coercive activity in that space. And COVID has been no exception.
“We have seen Beijing, Moscow, Tehran use a whole range of of undemocratic regimes really seek to use this moment both to advance their own objectives and in some cases as an opportunity to, again, cast doubt in people’s minds about democratic institutions or democratic governance or to really degrade the idea of truth. Essentially, this idea that the whole world is relative, it’s impossible to know the facts behind anything — and that is a really destructive framework for democracies, which really rely on quality information for our deliberative debates,” Laura Rosenberger said.
She later continued, “I get asked a lot, ‘What can you American voters do?’ Like, ‘What can the American people do themselves to help push back on these kinds of activities?’ And genuinely, one of the most important things that people can do to resist or push back on foreign interference is to participate in the democratic process. What our adversaries want is for people, for people to walk away from the process and to not engage and to lose faith.”