October 6, 2016

We are concerned that an ongoing Russian influence operation is targeting the 2016
U.S. election. This is a serious national security issue that transcends partisan
politics.

For this reason, we urge our colleagues in the press and our fellow citizens to be
cautious in the use of allegedly “leaked” information. The free flow of information
and ideas is what makes America’s political discourse so vibrant, but we now know
that our enemies are using this part of our system against us.

Private cybersecurity firms, independent experts, and senior U.S. intelligence and
law enforcement officials, all link Guccifer 2.0 to Russia and identify Russian cyber
intelligence agents as the likely perpetrator of the hack of political institutions like
the DNC and the DCCC. In this election, private documents and emails stolen by
Guccifer 2.0 have already made their way into the public discourse.

The hackers themselves have told us more are coming.

While we cannot rule out the possibility of isolated cyber attacks on US voting
systems on Election Day, it is imperative that we focus on the broad disinformation
campaign that is already underway.

What is taking place in the United States follows a well-known Russian playbook:
First leak compelling and truthful information to gain credibility. The next step:
release fake documents that look the same. This leaves a discredited actor in the
position of denying the authenticity in the merciless court of public opinion, just
weeks before an election. When this tactic is successful, opinions change and the
foreign actor proves its ability to manipulate perceptions and likely votes.

Disinformation and influence operations like these are a formal part of Russian
military doctrine and intelligence operations. These operations most often target
Russia’s near neighbors, like Estonia, Georgia, and Ukraine. But the Russians have
also used cyber tools to influence elections in the Netherlands and spread false
stories through the media in Germany and here in the United States.

Thus far, Democratic candidates and staff, as well as former Republican Secretaries
of State, have been targeted with information obtained in the hack on the DNC. In
the instances when they have been given the opportunity, those attacked have
validated that the documents are genuine. The process has begun and stage has
been set for the introduction of false information.

As national security professionals, we hope to empower our fellow citizens to
understand the risks and dangers of disinformation. Altering stolen documents and
introducing them to the public is not the stuff of spy movies. It is a proven tactic of
Russian intelligence, and we expect it will happen here.

We urge our fellow citizens and members of the media to stay engaged and to think
critically about the facts they consume and disseminate. Only through collective
vigilance can we demonstrate that American opinions will not be manipulated by
malign foreign powers.

If it becomes apparent that foreign governments can covertly influence public
opinion—and possibly even the outcome of elections—in the United States through
these types of actions, all future U.S. elections could become targets of foreign
intelligence operations. Our debates on critical national security issues will be
targeted in an effort to sway public opinion away from our national interests.

There is no amount of short-term partisan gain or perceived media scoop that could
justify that outcome. The only recourse is our vigilance and our vote.

Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the Department of Defense
Dan Benjamin, former State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Max Boot, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations
Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security
Derek Chollet, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Richard Clarke, former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and
Counter-terrorism
Mieke Eoyang, Vice President of the National Security Program at Third Way
Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute
Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, Department
of Homeland Security
Carl Levin, former United States Senator from Michigan
Jim Miller, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy
Julianne Smith, former Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President
Ken Sofer, Senior Policy Adviser at the Center for American Progress
Tara Sonenshine, former Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs and Public
Diplomacy
Moira Whelan, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Digital
Strategy

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