The Justice Department on Thursday charged two Iranian nationals with leading a disinformation and threat campaign to interfere in the 2020 election, NBC News reports.
The Justice Department alleged in court documents that Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian obtained confidential voter information from at least one state website, sent threats to intimidate Democrats, and created a video pushing disinformation about election infrastructure that they sent to Republicans.
“This indictment details how two Iran-based actors waged a targeted, coordinated campaign to erode confidence in the integrity of the U.S. electoral system and to sow discord among Americans,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the DOJ’s National Security Division. “The allegations illustrate how foreign disinformation campaigns operate and seek to influence the American public. The Department is committed to exposing and disrupting malign foreign influence efforts using all available tools, including criminal charges.”
Thousands of threats:
The DOJ alleges that the two men posed at Proud Boys members online and sent tens of thousands of emails to registered voters.
The emails threatened physical attacks unless the recipients switched parties to the GOP and voted for Donald Trump.
The two men tried to compromise voter registration websites in 11 states “to create the appearance that election results could not be trusted,” the DOJ said.
The two men are charged with creating and disseminating a video with “disinformation about purported election infrastructure vulnerabilities” and hacking into an unidentified media company’s computer network.
“As alleged, Kazemi and Kashian were part of a coordinated conspiracy in which Iranian hackers sought to undermine faith and confidence in the U.S. presidential election,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams. “Working with others, Kazemi and Kashian accessed voter information from at least one state’s voter database, threatened U.S. voters via email, and even disseminated a fictitious video that purported to depict actors fabricating overseas ballots.”
Not in custody:
Despite the charges, neither man is in custody.
The Justice Department said the charges will hamper their travel.
The DOJ did not link the campaign to the Iranian government but intelligence officials have.
The Treasury Department on Thursday separately imposed sanctions on Kazemi, Kashian, the Iranian cyber company Emennet Pasargad, and four Iranians linked to the firm.