State Department offers $10M reward for foreign election interference information

State Department offers $10M reward for foreign election interference information
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The State Department on Wednesday night announced it would offer a $10 million reward to anyone who could provide information on individuals working with foreign governments to interfere in U.S. elections through cyber operations.

The agency specifically is seeking information on individuals working with a foreign government to interfere in U.S. federal, state or local elections through hacking operations and in a way that violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. 

“The ability of persons, as well as foreign powers, to interfere in or undermine public confidence in United States elections, including through the unauthorized accessing of election and campaign infrastructure, constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” the State Department wrote in a “wanted” notice. 

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The reward is offered through the agency’s “Rewards for Justice” program, which has paid over $150 million in rewards to more than 100 people around the world for information on terrorism and national security-related issues since the program’s inception in 1984. It is run by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. 

The reward was announced as concerns around election security have spiked on Capitol Hill over the past month, and four years after Russian agents launched a sweeping interference effort aimed at the 2016 presidential election. 

This interference effort included targeting election infrastructure in all 50 states and hacking into the networks of the Democratic National Committee, along with launching a social media disinformation campaign aimed at favoring now-President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE.

The reward program was also rolled out the same day a State Department official hosted a briefing to discuss a new report on Russian disinformation and propaganda efforts.

The report outlined Russia’s use of government communications, social media, proxy sources, state-funded global messaging and cyber-enabled disinformation to continue to spread disinformation on issues including the COVID-19 pandemic, along with amplifying pro-Chinese Communist Party messages. 

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While the report was not focused on Russian disinformation efforts around elections, Lea Gabrielle, special envoy and coordinator of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, noted that Russia continues to be active in this space. 

“Russia typically looks to undermine democratic institutions and democratic norms, and to spread fear and confusion as well as trying to create doubts about democratic norms,” Gabrielle told reporters. “They also look for divisive issues to focus on. So you certainly see that from the proxy sites.”

Her comments came weeks after Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS says it will leave Baghdad embassy if Iraq doesn't rein in attacks: report Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Trump's push for win with Sudan amps up pressure on Congress  MORE said he was “confident” other countries would attempt to meddle in U.S. elections, and after a senior intelligence official put out a statement warning that Russia, Iran and China were already attempting to sway elections.