Former NSA chief says Russia unlikely to try to change votes

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Washington — Admiral Mike Rogers, former head of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, said Sunday that while Russia is attempting to influence the 2020 presidential election, it’s unlikely the Russians will target election infrastructure to try to change votes.

“Do they have capability? Yes. Is it likely? No,” Rogers said on “Face the Nation” when asked whether the Russians have the capability to alter votes and possibly change the outcome of the election. “We haven’t seen anything to date that would suggest that. We’re certainly seeing in cyber the same level of activity that we saw back in 2016. I would say where I think the Russians are doubling down is a little less on cyber activity directed directly against voting infrastructure.”

Rogers said instead that the Russians are using disinformation through social media and other areas in an effort to “polarize our nation, to incite violence, to incite hatred and to attempt to pull us apart.”

“Using false identity, using false information, attempting to manipulate images, the use of videos that are distorted to create an impression that is not based in fact, to try to energize individual’s emotions, their prejudices, their viewpoints, to galvanize them, to work against, if you will, an outcome that brings us together,” he said.

The November election, taking place in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, is expected to bring record voter turnout, and early voting is now underway in many states. With many states altering their voting policies to adjust to the coronavirus pandemic and expand mail-in voting, experts are urging patience with regards to the outcome of the presidential election, as it is unlikely the winner will be declared on election night.

The U.S. intelligence community also warned in August that the presidential election is a target of foreign interference, with Russia actively trying to damage Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and boost President Trump.

Rogers said he is “very confident that we’re going to have an election that will allow us to vote as citizens, that will accurately reflect the results of that voting and will generate a set of results that we can believe in.”

But he said voters need to be prepared for a longer process and should remember states have varying voting processes and that the system allows for legal challenges.

“Let’s just be calm. Let’s participate. Let’s do it peacefully without violence, and then let’s let this system play out just as it has for almost two and a half centuries,” he said.

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