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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/20/19

In Major Speech, Hillary Clinton Warns Of Four Top Threats To 2020 Election

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"We also saw what happened in 2016. Experts estimate that anywhere from 27,000 to 200,000 Wisconsin citizen voters, predominantly in Milwaukee, were turned away from the polls," she continued. "They showed up, but maybe they didn't have the correct form of identification. Maybe the name on their driver's license included a middle name or an initial that wasn't on their voter registration. But officials made every excuse in the book to prevent certain people from voting in that election."

Purges -- or preemptively removing otherwise eligible registered voters from rolls -- was "another form of voter suppression," she said, noting that 12 million voters were purged from 2012 to 2016.

"They were purged in Wisconsin, in Michigan, in Ohio, in Florida, in other places," Clinton said, citing key presidential swing states. "And when you have a Republican-controlled state government, as we did in those states back in 2016, it's practically impossible -- in fact, I'll say it is impossible -- to fight back, let alone to stop, that very deliberate form of [voter] suppression."

The second threat facing 2020 candidates, Clinton said, was hacking -- or breaking into, stealing, and possibly manipulating data and other records. In 2016, Russian spies broke into Democratic National Committee computers and took strategy documents and also stole her senior staff's emails. The action was this century's version of the 1970s Watergate break-in of DNC offices by aides of then-president Richard Nixon, a Republican. Unlike Watergate, the stolen materials were published widely and became fodder for incessant attacks on her candidacy.

"I tell every candidate, 'if you have not had your personal and campaign emails hacked, they will be. So will the emails of people working for you,'" Clinton said. "'Your information will be stolen and then weaponized against you in the most pernicious ways. Remember Pizzagate? WikiLeaks?'"

Pizzagate referred to a right-wing conspiracy theory that she was running a human trafficking and child sex ring from a Washington pizza parlor, according to supposedly coded messages in the stolen emails. Far-right online media provoked a North Carolina man to drive to the District of Columbia and fire an assault rifle at the restaurant. WikiLeaks is where DNC and Clinton campaign documents stolen by Russian spies were published.

"Cybersecurity is an essential component of protecting our democracy, but it's very difficult for campaigns on their own to be able to do that," she said. "You need a national commitment to cybersecurity. And as many cyber experts have already told us, that [national defense] just doesn't exist. And there is no real effort being made to install such a system that will protect voters."

Clinton was referring to the refusal by the Trump White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to acknowledge Russian meddling in 2016, as detailed in the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and to take additional steps to secure computer systems managing America's election infrastructure.

She cited academics who described how the "hacking, stealing, weaponizing information was so impactful [in 2016]. And it will be again. And we will have to hope that not only candidates, but the press and the public, will be able quickly to discredit what is being presented. And we won't face the horrible kinds of outcomes we saw before, where people believed Pizzagate."

Clinton continued with the third trend that she said would threaten any Democratic candidate: deliberately fake news posted online, especially on giant platforms such as Facebook that won't delete it. She singled out deceptively edited videos called "deep fakes."

"Remember what happened to Nancy Pelosi a few months ago?" she asked. "Somebody spliced words from different presentations, put them together and presented them as though it were real. And think how hard it was to convince the major tech platforms, who admitted it was fake, to take it down. Some did, but many did not. And their answer -- in particular, Facebook's answer -- was, 'Well, we're going to let people decide for themselves.' How can you decide for yourself when what is presented is blatantly false and manufactured?"

That trend has continued on Facebook, Clinton said, pointing to an uptick in Trump campaign misinformation -- specifically, paid ads that "violate Facebook's stated terms of service, [but] they're still up."

The final threat that 2020 candidates will face, according to Clinton, is "the lack of security in our election system itself," she said. Russia's attacks were wider than has been acknowledged, she said, citing the White House's reluctant admission that voting systems in two Florida counties were breached before November 2016.

"We actually know that it is more, but they won't admit that," she said. "Rep. Stephanie Murphy [D-FL], gave an incredible statement the other day, saying, 'I have been briefed, along with my Republican colleagues, about what actually happened in Florida, but I am prohibited from telling you.' Think about that. A direct assault by a foreign adversary on a state's election system -- and citizens of that state and our country can't know about it? Can't know the details? How are we to protect ourselves?"

The Mueller Report said Russia had "interfered in the 2016 election in a sweeping and systematic fashion," Clinton noted. "I don't think 'sweeping and systematic' describes two counties in Florida." She also cited election infrastructurethe voting and counting systems -- as inadequately protected to counter current threats.

"In recent years we've seen practices that should concern us all: from remote access software installed in election management systems to ballot scanners that connect to the internet, opening them up to potential hacking," Clinton said, quoting voting rights activists. "So this is a both-sides problem. It is a problem of a foreign adversary actually interfering, hacking, and it is a problem of our own decisions about what kinds of equipment and systems we are going to employ. Both of those deserve the most serious attention."

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Steven Rosenfeld  covers democracy issues for AlterNet. He is a longtime print and broadcast journalist and has reported for National Public Radio, Monitor Radio, Marketplace,  and many newspapers. (more...)
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