Iranian Men Charged With US Election Interference

Goals of online campaign were confusion and intimidation, officials say
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 18, 2021 4:04 PM CST
Indictment: 2 Iranians Tried to Scare US Voters
The grand jury indictment against Iranian nationals Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian is shown Thursday.   (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

(Newser) – Two suspected Iranian computer hackers have been charged with election interference, accused of trying to intimidate American voters ahead of last year's US presidential election by sending threatening messages and spreading disinformation, the AP reports. The effort attracted publicity in the run-up to the November 2020 election, when law enforcement and intelligence officials held an unusual evening news conference to accuse Iran of orchestrating an email campaign aimed at intimidating Democratic voters in battleground states so they would vote for then-President Trump.

That included a message purported to be from a far-right group, the Proud Boys, that threatened Democratic voters with physical harm if they didn't change their party affiliation and vote for Trump. US officials say the goal of the far-reaching influence operation was not to change the results of the election but to sow confusion and discord and create the perception that the results could not be trusted. The indictment, filed in federal court in Manhattan and unsealed on Thursday, accuses Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian of helping orchestrate the scheme. The Treasury Department is also announcing sanctions against the men, their colleagues, and the company they worked for.

The defendants are believed still to be in Iran, but officials hope the indictment and sanctions will restrict their ability to travel. Officials say the hackers attempted to compromise voter websites in 11 states and successfully downloaded voter information of more than 100,000 people in one state. They also sent what officials described as carefully curated messages to Americans of both major political parties. To GOP officials and Trump allies, the indictment says, the hackers crafted Facebook messages that falsely claimed that Democrats planned to commit voter fraud. In the case of Democrats, officials say, the hackers sent emails that threatened to "come after" voters who didn't support Trump.

(Read more misinformation stories.)

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