Iran has incited lethal violence against several US officials who have stood up to Donald Trump over his claims of election fraud, according to the FBI.
Online attacks on now-removed websites and social media accounts against the director of the FBI Christopher Wray and former Department of Homeland Security official Christopher Krebs, and more than a dozen others, surfaced on a website on December 9 entitled “Enemies of the People,” a term used repeatedly by President Trump to describe the press.
Home addresses, pictures featuring crosshairs, and other personal information were posted on the site, The Washington Post reports. The website falsely accused the people mentioned of committing election fraud to stop Mr Trump from winning. Among the attacked were also swing-state governors and voting system executives.
In October, The Independent reported that Iran was behind threatening emails claiming to be from the far-right group Proud Boys, telling people to vote for Trump to avoid reprisals.
“Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you,” the emails said.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI issued an advisory in late October saying that Iran targeted state and election websites and that it was an “intentional effort to influence and interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election”. Iran denied the allegations at the time.
Voting system employees, state government officials, and their families have been abused and threatened on social media after the election. Protesters have gathered outside the homes of government officials to protest what they perceive to be a lack of seriousness in investigating voter fraud. There is no evidence of widespread fraud and election security officials and experts have said that the election was fair and safe. Hand recounts of votes initially counted by machines have returned near-identical results.
Mr Trump has been blamed for spreading baseless election fraud conspiracy theories and thereby making American voters susceptible to misinformation attacks by foreign governments. One of the attacked was a 20-year-old Dominion Voting Systems employee who endured calls on social media for “imprisonment, torture or execution,” The Washington Post reported.
The Seattle Times reported the elections director in Washington state, Lori Augino, was among others threatened in a post on the website that ended with a timer counting down and the words “Your days are numbered”.
Several sites were created and multiple social media accounts spread the content. Joe Slowik, a security researcher at DominionTools, noted earlier this month that the creators had not used anonymized web registry services. Names, email addresses and a physical address were posted, mostly in Russia and Eastern Europe.
But there were also signs that some of the activity could have taken place in the United States, according to The Washington Post. One address posted was in Macon, Georgia.
Experts said it was clear that the people behind the site had put in a lot of work to mask their identity and avoid removal of the sites, making it clear that they anticipated pushback.