And So It Begins – Senate warns of unprecedented foreign interference in 2024 election

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The 2024 election likely will be the most attacked by malicious foreign forces in American history, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned on Wednesday.

“The barriers to entry for foreign malign influence – including election influence – have become almost vanishingly small,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in prepared remarks. “I believe that what we may see from our adversaries going forward could be more sophisticated and more aggressive in both scale and scope.”

Warner’s remarks came as the Senate Intelligence Committee kicked off the first of several hearings on election interference that it anticipates having between now and the Nov. 5 election, which likely will feature a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

A combination of factors, including poorly regulated social media companies and aggressive foreign adversaries like Russia, have exacerbated the threat of foreign election influence, Warner said.

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In the 2016 presidential election Russia conducted a persistent campaign to meddle in various covert ways to influence the outcome in Donald Trump’s favor according to U.S. intelligence agencies and a 2020 report from the then-Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee. Trump has been notably more sympathetic to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive foreign policy than his Democratic opponents, including in its current war in Ukraine .

But the threat is not limited to Russia. Declassified intelligence assessments have identified a whole host of other “influence actors who have engaged in, or at least contemplated, election influence and interference activities – including not only Iran, Russia, and (China), but also Cuba, Venezuela, Hezbollah, and a range of foreign hacktivists and profit-motivated cybercriminals,” Warner said.

‘More incentivized’ foreign adversaries this election season

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In recent years, some of those adversaries, Warner said, have become “more incentivized than ever to intervene in our elections because they understand that it could directly affect their national interest.”

That is especially the case with Russia, where President Vladimir Putin understands that influencing public opinion and shaping the elections in the United States “is a cheap way to erode Western support for Ukraine,” Warner said.

“Similarly,” he added, “we’ve seen that the conflict between Israel and Hamas has been fertile ground for disinformation” since the Palestinian militant group’s cross-border attack last Oct. 7 that launched a destabilizing war the Middle East.

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