Two Iranians charged with spreading election disinformation, threatening people to vote for Trump

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  • A federal grand jury in New York has indicted two Iranian citizens on charges related to an attempted cyber-based propaganda attempt to intimidate and influence American voters to benefit Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign last year.
  • According to prosecutors, a threatening email sent to Democratic voters said, “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will follow you.”
  • Sayyed Mohamed Hossein Musa Kazemi and another 27-year-old, Sajjad Kashian, have been charged with a five-count indictment with conspiracy to commit fraud against the US, computer fraud, voter intimidation and transmission of interstate threats.

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A federal grand jury in New York has indicted two Iranian citizens on charges related to an attempted cyber-based propaganda attempt to intimidate and influence American voters to benefit Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign last year.

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According to prosecutors, a threatening email sent to thousands of Democratic voters said, “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will follow you.”

The emails were reportedly sent from the Proud Boys, a de facto racist group in the United States that supported Trump during the election.

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The two men are accused of obtaining confidential voter information from at least one state’s election website, data on more than 100,000 voters.

According to the Justice Department, he is also accused of sending intimidating emails to voters and disseminating propaganda videos about alleged vulnerabilities in election infrastructure.

Prosecutors said the duo also gained unauthorized access to a US media company’s computer network as part of their effort.

“If not successful it is not for undermining the efforts of the FBI and the victim company. [that intrusion, it] That would have provided another vehicle for the conspirators to spread false claims after the election,” the Justice Department said.

Sayyed Mohamed Hossein Musa Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kashian, 27, have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud against the US, computer fraud, voter intimidation, and a five-count indictment with the transmission of interstate threats.

The Justice Department said two “experienced Iran-based hackers” work for a cyber security company that provides services to the Iranian government.

The indictment appears to at least partially contradict the 2020 claim of William Ivanina, a key intelligence official in the Trump administration, who said Iran was opposed to Trump’s reelection.

The indictment, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, “details how two Iran-based actors launched a targeted, coordinated campaign to undermine trust in the integrity of the US electoral system and sow discord between Americans,” said assistant counsel Matthew Olsen said. General of the DOJ’s National Security Division in a press release.

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According to prosecutors, the men told voters in an email that, “We are in possession of all your information (email, address, telephone… everything).”

“You’re currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we’ve got access to the entire voting infrastructure. You vote for Trump on Election Day or we’ll follow you.”

“Change your party’s affiliation with Republicans to let us know you’ve received our message and will follow through,” the email said. “We will know which candidate you voted for. If I were you, I would have taken it seriously.”

A few weeks before the 2020 election, Trump’s director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe scheduled a news conference with little warning that Iran was sending fake emails designed to “intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage”.

Sometime back that news conference was organized, The Washington Post reported that US officials had warned officials About Iranian efforts to send threatening emails to Democratic voters posing as a member of the far-right group Proud Boys.

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

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