Iran funding anti-Israel protests, US intelligence chief says
Nominee for Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images

Actors with Iranian ties are “posing as activists online, seeking to encourage protest, and even providing financial support to protesters,” Avril Haines said.

By Ron Kampeas
July 9, 2024

(JTA) — WASHINGTON — Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, said Iran was seeking to interfere in the U.S. election and was stoking protests against Israel as it wages war with Hamas, including through funding demonstrations.

“In recent weeks, Iranian government actors have sought to opportunistically take advantage of ongoing protests regarding the war in Gaza, using a playbook we’ve seen other actors use over the years,” Haines said in a comment posted to the DNI website. “We have observed actors tied to Iran’s government posing as activists online, seeking to encourage protests, and even providing financial support to protesters.”

Haines, who is Jewish, said that Iran’s activities should not taint genuine protesters or inhibit robust speech. She said targeted protesters may not be aware they are interacting with a foreign government.

“I want to be clear that I know Americans who participate in protests are, in good faith, expressing their views on the conflict in Gaza – this intelligence does not indicate otherwise,” she said. “Moreover, the freedom to express diverse views, when done peacefully, is essential to our democracy, but it is also important to warn of foreign actors who seek to exploit our debate for their own purposes.”

American security agencies have tracked foreign interference from Russia, China and Iran since at least 2016, when Donald Trump was elected. Federal agents in 2021 filed charges against two Iranian hackers for interference in the election the previous year, in which, according to a U.S. attorney, they sought “to undermine faith and confidence” in the vote.

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